Unwinding on Star Island

I am lounging on my porch, cooling my heels after this evening’s inane drama with a chilly glass (or two) of chardonnay to help speed up the process. A thunderstorm has been teasing my scorched grass, lingering around the outskirts of my yard for hours. I’m thrilled the thermometer arm has finally slid under the 80 degree mark, but the humidity is still hovering around 100% and I can see the moisture (and mosquitoes) hanging in the over-saturated air.

And I swear it is raining on my next-door neighbor’s lawn.

Ah, the joys of Florida.

Thankfully I am being thoroughly entertained by the most recent Carl Hiaasen novel, Star Island.

Thank you, Carl. Your new novel is exactly what I’ve been needing.

This new Florida fairy tale lampoons the glut of vaporous pop culture superstars taking over South Beach. The story revolves around Cherry Pye, a rather randy disaster of a lip-syncing pop star–essentially a Brittany Lohan. The cast of characters includes her spunky “stunt double” Ann DeLusia; Bang Abbot, an obsessed and odorous paparazzo turned inept kidnapper; and Chemo, a weed whacker wielding bodyguard charged with keeping her from going on a permanent bender. Throw in the requisite corrupt developer and the endearingly off-kilter crusader Skink and I am in for an entertaining ride.

I may have been dedicating most of my book related blog posts to Chick Lit and romances, but a special place in my book-loving soul is saved for smart and snarky satires.

And the King of that genre is Carl.

I read his first novel, Tourist Season when I was a young and impressionable reader around the age of 14.

And I friggin loved it.

The blatant sarcasm. The witty repartee. Murder, mayhem, and outrageous characters that seemed to push the envelope of parody…yet if you ever lived in South Florida, you were surrounded by them everyday.

Hiaasen tells of the dregs of society who somehow end up flowing (or fleeing) South and end up in the bizarre Wonderland called Florida. Who else can spin tales involving a crusading one-eyed ex-Governor turned Everglades hermit who dines primarily on road kill? Or a deranged red-neck with a decaying pit bull head attached to his arm? And why not dump a spiny sea urchin into the diaper of a greedy developer who paid crackheads to cut down acres of endangered mangroves in the Florida Keys? It’s absolutely brilliant and rather appropriate. I have secretly always wanted drop shopping bags full of snakes on a cruise ship and feed annoying tourists to a crocodile named Pavlov.

His books always have an unlikely hero, a gorgeous and gutsy young woman, corrupt bad guys to foil (usually developers, crooked politicians, and someone trashing the environment), a whacked-out ally who may be the voice of reason, and tons of examples of why most Floridians should be chased back out of the state or used for bait at Gatorland.

Perhaps I am biased because I am South Florida Native who has always been outraged over the “knock it down and pave it over” mentality of Florida transplants, developers, and politicians. I actually prefer swampland to strip shopping centers.

A little Florida before and after…

And it doesn’t hurt that my Mom went to high school with the guy, which is why we always referred to him just as “Carl” in my house. And he’s a Gator. I remember reading his savvy Miami Herald columns from the time I was old enough to pick up a newspaper (although sadly those should be on the endangered species list now as well).

I honestly can’t think of another author who can have me laughing out loud so frequently. I have to be careful about reading his books in public places. I could easily get kicked out of a library or off an airplane for sudden raucous outbursts. Drinking hot beverages while reading his novels can also be dangerous (coffee out the nose has been know to occur).

Carl’s black humor is usually laced with scathing truths regarding the callousness and immortality of our Sunshine State’s motley population. But sometimes I just need one of his clever capers to remind me how I tolerate living in this screwed up paradise we call home.

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