Sunday, January 9, 2011

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Star Island by Carl HiaasenThis book was a hoot and a holler.  My first Hiaasen book and my first introduction to Skink, the renegade ex-governor of Florida who lives on the Florida Keys.  When you read a book, naturally you cast them in your head.  Skink seemed like a gonzo Bill Murray or Hunter S. Thompson gone even crazier.  Skink lives out in the wild, eats roadkill, loves Creedence (shades of the Dude), and makes life hectic for slimy real estate developers in Florida.  Oh, and he also has braids made out of shotgun shells.

The book isn't about Skink per se, the main characters are Cherry Pie (Britney Spears was definitely pictured in my mind) and Annie, an actress who resembles Cherry and acts as a decoy for the press.  Cherry is dumber than a horse.  She drinks to excess and takes drugs wherever she can find them, which is endangering her career and the meal ticket Cherry provides for her parents.  Cherry has an ex-con bodyguard named Chemo, a giant disfigured man with a weed whacker in place of a missing hand.  Somehow the image of Jim Shooter (former editor of Marvel Comics) came to mind when picturing Chemo.  Things go terribly awry when the slimy photographer, Claude Abbott (pictured Jon Polito, from Miller’s Crossing), gets miffed about being duped by Annie when Cherry gets sick.  When Abbott accidentally gives Cherry a lift on the lam from rehab, he falls in love with Cherry in a sick, twisted way.  Eventually Annie gets kidnapped by Abbott and held for ransom.  It doesn't sound funny the way I'm telling it, but it's a laugh riot from beginning to end. 

Cherry is told that Abbott won the Pulitzer a while back—a photo of a lemon shark taking a big bite of a Florida tourist’s ass.
“The Pulitzer thingie,” Cherry said, “is that like a People’s Choice?”
Another great scene involves Skink's ability to quote the great artists of his generation.  Sadly, like myself, Skink is often misunderstood by people who have no knowledge of history:
Skink repositioned his patch and said, “‘Hustlers of the world, there is one Mark you cannot beat: the Mark Inside.’ That’s William S. Burroughs.”
“Oh, I like it,” Ann remarked.
Chemo thought William Burroughs was the guy who wrote the Tarzan books he’d seen in the prison library, although the governor’s quotation didn’t seem to fit a jungle story.
If there's any complaint that I could make about Star Island, it's the ending, which comes rather abruptly. Hiaasen has a lot of plates spinning in the air, and you expect something big to happen, but it doesn't. Action stops and you get a recap of what happened to the characters afterward, kind of like the end of a movie where you see snapshots of the characters after the film ended.

Every once in a while, I get an itch to read a novel that just skewers Hollywood and the world of celebrity.  Star Island really did that for me.  I am going to have to read all those other Hiaasen novels featuring Skink.
Nuff Said.

Link: Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

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