Preface: I was reminded recently that with all the heart-rending strife in our world it’s even more important to pull back from it and laugh now and then.
Carl Hiaasen is a smart, funny man. He says that his mission in life is to keep people from coming to Florida by talking about all the crazy, dangerous shit that happens there. He is, no doubt, Florida tourism’s worst nightmare. On tour promoting his latest book, Razor Girl, Hiaasen made a presentation at San Francisco’s JCC auditorium in mid-September that I was fortunate to attend.
To be honest, this was the first time I had attended a presentation by a major novelist. In grad school I had the opportunity to be in a seminar with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and heard Jane Goodall talk in the late 90’s. Death and apes are hard topics to beat, but I couldn’t imagine what a fiction author, someone who just makes shit up for a living, would talk about. It turns out that since Hiassen works as a journalist in Florida he has a bird’s eye view of the very real and very crazy shit that happens there. He has endless raw material for his novels and was quite animated and off-the-cuff as he presented his novel’s source material on stage.
In the opening scene in Razor Girl – not a spoiler [see cover shot] – a driver on southbound U.S. 1, the long highway to Key West, is rear-ended. At the wheel, as the victim and the police discover, is a sexy redhead, a hit-for-hire professional, trimming her ‘bikini parts’ with a safety razor. Other fact-based Florida scenes include six pound Gambian Pouch Rats running rampant around Key West and high tides, much higher now via Climate Change, washing out coastal resort beaches, even flooding hotel lobbies. Hiassen says that he just focuses on the raw material and let’s the colorful characters he creates interact (in wildly unpredictable ways, of course). He lets you laugh your way through the plot twists, building his way toward a bizarre, strangely believable ending.
For more book tidbits, check out What Rhody’s Reading.