Monday, September 8, 2008

Ankle deep in the effervescing blood of fools!

I've been reading a good amount of Carl Hiaasen, lately. The title of this post is a quote from my most recent read, Sick Puppy. It stuck out. I wonder why.

Hiaasen novels tend to be about the despoiling of natural riches (Florida's, in particular). Developers, politicians, industrialists -- they all get the treatment. Florida, it seems, is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. That's not to say there aren't good guys. There are quite a few. The problem, it seems, is that everyone is crazy. I'm talking totally off their gourd. Even the good ones. Hiaasen populates his novels with a wide variety of nutjobs, but none so weird or outlandish that you don't believe they couldn't exist, somewhere, sometime.

His bizarre casts are one of two things that seem to keep his novels interesting for me (the other being excellent overall writing). Most of his books I've read are, well, formulaic. Pick any one of them up, and I guarantee you'll find these characters: The near-animal meathead thug, with some odd proclivity, whether it's a collection of 911 calls, overwhelming steroid use, or a tendency to collect roadside death markers; the greedy developer/industrialist with a formerly criminal background; the enabler, who's more of an asshole than evil, but who facilitates the plans of the industrialist -- likely to have an odd sexual proclivity, as well (otherwise, the industrialist or thug will, if not all three); and Clinton Tyree. I won't describe Clinton here. I can't really. He's a good enough reason to pick up the books all by himself.

Hiaasen also has a fondness for sex workers, be they hookers, strippers, phone-sex girls, or some other working Jane. They are scattered liberally throughout his books, with the possible exception of his juvenile works, which I haven't read. Hiaasen varies his protagonists fairly well, working with anything from the "crazy" to "caught up in a whirlwind" archetypes.

Overall, I enjoy reading Hiaasen. I get a good laugh out of the wry, sardonic quips, and I empathize with the heroes (such as they are). I'm starting to get a nagging feeling, though, that I'm reading the same book over and over. When the strippers start to run together, you know you've been at it too long.