Swamp Justice, Florida-Style
Eco-terrorists are not your average dedicated environmentalists. In Carl Hiaasen’s novels, they can be downright dangerous and emotionally unstable. They say “write what you know” and Hiaasen knows Florida and the politics of the Sunshine State’s real estate developments. As a longtime investigative reporter and columnist for the Miami Herald, Hiaasen spent most of his career in journalism ranting against real estate moguls and politicians responsible for altering the unique landscape of Southern Florida.
Here are a few notable picks of Hiaasen’s award-winning, fast-paced romps brimming with memorable shenanigans, shady characters, and improbable adventures.
Dive in, go green. You’ll be glad you did.
Razor Girl - Lane Coolman's car is hit from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, but it is no accident. Quirky Merry Mansfield - the eponymous Razor Girl - is a cunning crash scammer and she’s got her sights set on unsuspecting men. Hiaasen compiles a cast of colorful characters that rival the Mob and hail from a mix of truth and Florida tabloids. Hold on for a wild ride with grifters, reality TV stars, bikers, and Gambian rats. What’s not to love?
Bad Monkey - The protagonist has a human arm in his freezer, as you do if you’re a former cop who’s desperately trying to get your detective job back. Ex-cop Wild Skink thinks if he can solve the case, he can finally ditch his current “Roach Patrol” health inspector duties. Carl Hiaasen is back doing what he does best: combining the greedy, the corrupt, and the degraders of pristine land with ex-cops, ex-lovers, voodoo practitioners, and of course, a bad monkey.
Skink No Surrender – In his first book for teens, Hiaasen reunites us with Wild Skink, the wizened, half-crazed, one-eyed former Florida governor from Double Whammy, Bad Monkey and five other novels. Skink joins 14-year-old Richard in a crazy breakneck search across Florida to find Richard’s cousin, Malley, who has run off with someone she met online to avoid being sent to boarding school. Running the length of the state, this unlikely duo battles crazed pigs, giant gators and poisonous snakes, all par for the course in wild Florida.
While many crown Carl Hiaasen the king of the satirical thriller and a comedic giant, the following authors merit a nod for more laugh-out-loud tales of Florida’s unique style of swamp justice. I think you’ll be equally satisfied with these rollicking Hiaasen Read-A-Likes.
Big Trouble by Dave Barry - This is humor columnist Dave Barry’s debut novel, proving that any material in Barry’s hands is ferociously funny, wildly witty, and never, ever stale. While Barry no doubt is compared to Hiaasen, Barry brings his own charm and original style to this ribald caper that has more twists than the Inland Waterway.
Black Sunshine by S.V. Dale - Sons of a respected Florida governor and oil baron, the Billings boys seem so different - one a supposedly dim-witted black sheep, the other the heir apparent to succeed his father in Tallahassee. But what follows is a wild and lethal campaign where not all is as it seems. This is first-class political satire, Florida-style.
Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey - Serge Storms is a Sunshine State trivia champion. His partner and roommate Coleman loves cartoons. Together they live a life of crime and adventure. In this novel of non-stop shootouts, robberies and car chases from Tampa to the Dry Tortugas, Dorsey serves up a rockin' carnival ride with a side of political satire aimed right at Florida's heart.
Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard - Lewd, lecherous, law-bending Florida jurist Judge Robert “Maximum Bob” Gibbs has been sentenced to death - by alligator, if necessary. Maximum Bob is a dark classic thriller from “the greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever” (New York Times Book Review), and any reader who loved the criminal mayhem of Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Out of Sight, The Hot Kid, or any number of the inimitable Leonard’s numerous crime fiction masterworks will get maximum enjoyment out of this one.
Everglades (#10 Doc Ford Novels) by Randy Wayne White - Retired CIA agent turned marine biologist Doc Ford comes home to find an old friend and one-time lover waiting for him. Her real-estate developer husband is assumed dead and she stands to inherit his fortune, but she's being followed and needs some answers. Ford obliges and goes deep into the Everglades where he finds the husband has taken up with phony guru and shady businessman Bhagwan Shiva to build a forest ashram for Florida jet setters. This tale of ecological destruction and murder brings together Gulf Coast beach hippies, Mossad-trained henchman, angry bull sharks and air boat rides sure to get your blood pumping.