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KICK ASS by Carl Hiaasen


Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen

by Carl Hiaasen & edited by Diane Stevenson

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8130-1717-3
Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

A public service to his many fans, this compendium of Miami Herald columns by best-selling novelist Carl Hiaasen (Lucky You, 1997, etc.) reveals an angry, alert civic muckraker in the pugilistic vein of Mencken or Royko. Though best known for his ribald crime fiction, with its meticulous universe of South Florida idiocy and venal conspiracy, Hiaasen cut his teeth as an investigative reporter, and this spirit is strong in both his chosen subjects and his wry attention to unforgiving evidentiary detail. As editor Stevenson notes, the collection’s thrust, which she constructed by sifting through Hiaasen’s 1300-plus columns, was to present his advocacy of —realistic growth and decent government in Florida.— Along the way Hiaasen stops to gut innumerable big fish—crooked politicians, rogue cops, insensate tourists, swollen developers—within a rough chronology reaching back to the cocaine-crazed Reagan ’80s. Although Hiaasen is a truly funny writer, a stern moral compass lies beneath his slapstick. His quixotic outrage regarding the despoliation of his home state (cf. the columnist/terrorist of his Tourist Season, 1986) is as unforgiving as an Uzi, as authentic as a Waffle House breakfast. Hiaasen’s zestful attacks on Miami’s many embarrassing or indicted leaders end up addressing the threats posed, for instance, by the crash overpopulation of Florida, epitomized by the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Andrew upon shoddy developments, a dire issue that pro-business boosters (e.g., The Mouse) labor to minimize. But even the loopier pieces (tame dachshund-eating alligators, Geraldo Rivera’s faked drug raids) are informed by Hiaasen’s unforgiving focus upon the social rot beneath the zany facade. Such columns, like his fiction, reveal Hiaasen as a crystalline, pitiless seer of human weakness in much the same vein as his Floridian forbears, Charles Willeford and Harry Crews. Deeply satisfying, both for what it reveals of the serious priorities of a supposedly light novelist and for the outrageous epic of Florida profiteering and entropy within.