From Date (Speedweek, 1999, etc.), a Florida journalist on his way to being the distaff Carl Hiaasen, another bumpy burlesque lampooning the events surrounding the Sunshine State’s landmark legislation that opened the tobacco industry to billion-dollar lawsuits.
Governor Bolling Waites, a politically savvy, speargun-wielding fictional stand-in for Lawton Chiles, has just vetoed a Florida bill that would have gotten the tobacco industry off the hook for causing millions of cancer deaths. Bartholomew Simons, the unspeakably vile Nietzsche-quoting CEO of RJH, whose cool Larry Lama cartoon character (remember Joe Camel?) is selling millions of cigarettes to teenagers, has opened his checkbook to buy as many Florida state senators as possible so they’ll vote to override the veto. He’s also lined up a suspect young political consultant, Murphy Moran, the lethally beautiful lobbyist Ruth Ann Bronson, and Colonel Marvin Lambert, a lunatic Rogue Warrior–type security samurai, who must locate a purloined memo that, if made public, would doom the tobacco industry’s cause. Missing among the dozens of comically, if not revoltingly, corrupt lawmakers lining up to be bought is State Senator Dolly Nichols, a Republican who thinks that government shouldn’t legislate public choice. New to money politics is Jeena Golden, a drop-dead gorgeous blond (she advises her protégé to dress like a slut and never wear underwear) hired by Bronson to push for Big Tobacco. Her former boyfriend is Governor Waites’s right-hand man, FBI agent Johnny Espinosa, who has slowly assembled a collection of covertly recorded conversations that might land every state politician in the slammer. Date brings these and other venal Floridians together, shuffles the deck and deals out a series of increasingly ludicrous scenes whose comic inventiveness underscores his point: that against big money interests, it’s a miracle that anyone can do the right thing.
Cynical, caustic, and amusing: an ensemble story that uses Big Tobacco as a wedge to reveal much of the ugliness of Florida’s political scene, little of its charm and saving graces.