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Tom Chaney: Carl Hiaasen Strikes Again

Of Writers And Their Books: Carl Hiaasen Strikes Again. Tom says if you don't know the fine novels of Carl Hiaasen, then run, don't walk, to your local book monger today. This column first appeared 29 January 2006.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave

By Tom Chaney

Carl Hiaasen Strikes Again

At eleven o'clock on a cool April night Chaz Perrone tosses his wife Joey off an upper deck of the cruise ship Sun Duchess. Joey, an excellent swimmer, turns the fall into a dive and swims toward the Florida coast. Just at the moment of total exhaustion Joey is nudged by what she believes to be a shark. At that point she passes out.

The shark turns out to be a bale of Jamaican pot, thrown overboard by a smuggler in panic. Joey is rescued the following morning by ex-prosecutor Mick Stanahan who has fled his job and his ex-wives, which include five waitresses and a television producer, for a life on an otherwise uninhabited island with a Doberman who cannot swim.

Joey, with Mick's help, plots to get even with Chaz -- a marine biologist "who cannot tell a sea horse from a sawhorse"; who cannot succeed at murder; but who is good at fraud and at getting caught.

Those who are familiar with Carl Hiaasen will not be surprised at this stately opening of Skinny Dip, his tenth novel about life in south Florida. One is reminded of the assassin who, when he loses his gun hand, has it replaced, not by a steel hook, rather by a weed-eater. The devout among his readers will recall the weeping Madonna whose owner replenishes the tears on a daily basis to entrap the tourists.

And all of us Hiaasen fans know and love Skink, the one-eyed ex-governor of the state who has taken to the swamp, living off road kill, polishing his glass eye, and helping thwart the developers who threaten the environment of the Everglades.

Chaz has tried to murder his wife because he fears that Joey has caught onto his scheme to fake water quality measurements in an attempt to cover up the massive agricultural pollution of the Everglades by a ruthless vegetable grower, Red Hammernut, in whose pay Chaz is.

Red has in his employ a thug named Tool. Tool is in constant pain because of a wound he received more than a year earlier. He had been shot in the derriere, the bullet lodged about the center point of that physiological location. Tool cannot sit for very long at a time, and he is in constant search for relief from pain.

Unable to get relief from non-prescription medication, he has taken to stealing morphine patches from the backs of terminal cancer patients in nursing homes. In pursuit of relief, he is caught stealing patches off Maureen a resident of the Elysian Manor hospice -- caught, that is by Maureen a nonagenarian whose family had abandoned her to her painful end.

Tool is able to steal a half-million dollar blackmail payoff. He buys a new, apple-red, F-150, supercab pickup truck for $33,641 cash; rescues Maureen from the hospice after finding a veterinarian to extract the bullet plus one more gained in a recent shoot out. Together they take off to Canada to witness the northern migration of the white pelicans which Maureen admires.

The plot of Skinny Dip takes many a twist and turn. Hiaasen leads us through a vertiable maze in a wildly improbable plot. I really do not want to give too much away. I won't tell you about the cop Rolveg who is resigning from the Miami police force to return to a small town in Minnesota. Suffice it to say that he is doggedly on the track of the hapless Chaz who still thinks he killed his wife. Neither will I speak of the wonderful memorial service for the presumed dead Joey at which Stanahan forces Chaz to eulogize Joey.

Let it be said that all the evil doers get their comeuppance; that the good guys live happily ever after; that even the Doberman learns to swim; and that Tool and Maureen drive off toward the northern lights after burglarizing a drug store for Maureen's morphine patches.

What does need to be said is that: if you don't know the fine novels of Carl Hiaasen, then run, don't walk, to your local book monger today.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2014-11-16 03:08:30
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