Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
TEASE, SLEAZE AND KEYS
"CERTAIN TYPES OF HYPOCRISY APPEAL to me as targets of satire," says Carl Hiaasen with uncharacteristic restraint. For his fifth novel, Strip Tease, the Miami Herald columnist says he found inspiration in "the historic mix of sex and politics—the Kennedys, Wilbur Mills, Gary Hart." More specifically, he was moved by the case of Rep. J. Herbert Burke, the late Florida congressman "who got arrested in 1978 in a Dania strip joint. All the strippers had the same quote: 'He was always grabbing us, and he never tipped.' "
Of course, Hiaasen, whose prime mission in life is to "sit and rail and preach and snipe at the despoilers" of Florida, focuses on another, not-so-amusing villain in Strip Tease: his state's sugar growers. "A small number of people," he says, "but unbelievably powerful. Florida has all these laws—things I can't do in my own backyard. Yet they're dumping their bilge into our water supply."
When he's not ranting and writing, Hiaasen, 40, a third-generation Floridian, is out fishing, spending much of his lime in the Keys. His wife, Connie, 41, practices law in Fort Lauderdale, while son Scott, 22, is currently an intern reporter at his dad's paper. "Despite all my efforts to dissuade him," says Hiaasen, "he wants to be a journalist."
Hiaasen himself is finding greater satisfaction these days in fiction, "where I can get away with more." His villains, though, do not get away. They die in truly creative, horrifying ways—choked by plastic alligators, done in by amorous dolphins, ground up and distributed in the national food supply "Readers," he believes, "are no longer satisfied by somebody getting hit by a bus. Besides, if you create characters as horrible as some of mine, the reader deserves a payoff."
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