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Friday, July 6, 2012

Guest Blog: Mike Faricy on Carl Hiassen

Minnesota native Mike Faricy, author of "Russian Roulette", the recently released "Bite Me", and 7 other funny, quirky crime novels (all available for $2.99 for Kindle), joins us on the blog to discuss authors and characters who have been an influence on his writing.  Up today is Florida author Carl Hiassen.

Thanks again to Must Read Mysteries for letting me share my thoughts on crime writers and characters. Again, demonstrating an authority problem, let me immediately dwell on a writer who is usually featured in the crime/mystery shelves of your local bookstore but is more aptly labeled as the writer of ‘Environmental thrillers’.

Born in Plantation, Florida, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale in 1953, Carl Hiaasen stems from Norwegian heritage. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism, was hired in 1976 by the Miami Herald where he still writes a weekly column.

Tony Hillerman once referred to Hiaasen as ‘The Mark Twain of the crime novel.’ He has no real series character in his books, although there are two recurring characters, Clinton ‘Skink’ Tyree, the former governor of Florida, now a swamp rat who lives on road kill. The character is actually based on a childhood friend of Hiaasen’s, Clyde Ingalls, who took his life as a teenager, in part over the developmental devastation of Florida. The other recurring character is a homicide detective named Al Garcia (Zorro anyone?) who maintains a vivid memory of every corpse he has ever had to deal with.

He writes wearing a fishing hat and hearing protection muffs. His books dovetail with his concerns as a journalist and native Floridian. He once said that “Florida has always been a magnate for outlaws, scoundrels, and a sort of predatory element.” The Florida of his books is populated by greedy businessmen, corrupt politicians, dumb blondes, apathetic retirees, and intellectually challenged tourists. There’s no end to the bad behavior on the part of characters who theoretically are supposed to hold the public trust.

With few exceptions, his main character is never a PI. They’re usually younger individuals who’ve been kicked around the block more than once. They’ve all either failed at a career or just simply burned out, wandering aimlessly, not really caring all that much. A woman in some sort of difficulty usually raises them to the surface and provides a cause to champion

The film Striptease, based on Hiaasen’s novel Strip Tease starred Demi Moore wearing pasties and Bert Reynolds covered from top to bottom in Vaseline. Hiaasen insists the film represents a high water mark in American cinematography.

Wry humor is one of his trademarks. His tales take place in a world where Florida scams and schemes seem to be par for the course. “None of my novels, I don’t think, are really whodunits. By page 90, everybody knows whodunit. The trick and the fun is trying to figure out how are they going to get out of it?”

Every one of Hiaasen’s novels are different. The characters are always a surprise and they face a number of forks in the road along their madcap journey. Critic’s complain that his work is the same book written over and over again, only with different characters. It’s fair to say the plots follow a familiar line, a beautiful part of Florida is threatened by corporations. The fun part in every Hiaasen tale is the weirdness and quirky behavior of his characters. If you haven’t read him, give him a try, I think you’ll inhale each and every book.


  1. Love Hiaasen's books. Get a good laugh out of every one of them. And I never get tired of reading them. Like you say, his characters is what makes them good reads.

  2. I've read all of his adult books multiple times. My only complaint is that he's spending more time writing YA books instead of his good old adult ones. I tried to read the first kids' book and just didn't care for it.

    Have you read any by Tim Dorsey? He's like Hiaasen on crack ;)

  3. Rita, I have tried Dorsey, and while it was funny it was a bit over the top for my taste. My reaction was similar to the one I had to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series after the first couple of books, in that sometimes ridiculous/preposterous situations substitute for humor that comes from realistic characters and situations.


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