An accidental Florida governor gets political religion and steers a virtuous reelection campaign through the roadside stands and swamps of the state that gave us both our current president and Pee-Wee Herman.
How many subtropical grotesques can you cram into one candidate’s Winnebago? In Dorsey’s Sunshine State you can apparently grab any five people off the sidewalk to populate a novel, since there seems to be no one just walking around unmedicated. Absolutely everyone here is way over the top, whether it’s Jackie, the trailer-park tart hard-charging on her way to the first ladyship; Babs, her ventriloqual competitor for the mansion in Tallassee, the epically corrupt state legislature, or the airheaded news anchor chasing his story in a blimp. Former newsman Dorsey (Hammerhead Ranch Motel, 2000) packs a recreational plot vehicle with an abused tennis starlet, an amnesiac press officer, an Ehrlichmanic chief of staff, a secretly virtuous but still sexy political consultant, and the Republican candidate himself, Marlon Conrad, a handpicked, supposed-to-be-controllable young goof-off lieutenant governor, whose conscience got raised from the dead after an erroneous but enlightening posting to Kosovo with his reserve unit, an assignment that turned the lightweight fratboy into a media hero after a shootout with the evil Serbs. Kicked up to governor when his predecessor’s hooker-loaded plane crashes in Alaska, Conrad is the party’s man for the rapidly approaching election. If this is the way Florida really is (and the recent presidential election does seem to support the case), Carl Hiaasen has been holding back. At the wheel of his garish mobile HQ, with its flamboyant Orange Crush logo, Marlon shunpikes through the state’s glitzless underbelly, paying his respects to the poor but noble families of his late army buddies, emerging from the boondocks every now and then for a debate with House Speaker Gomer Tatum. Oh, and there are serial killers on the loose.