Carl Hiaasen, |
I've never seen the movie. Film clips showing Burt Reynolds in cowboy boots, cowboy hat and towel didn't entice me. Neither did reports of Demi Moore's newly sculpted body, which I thought had been perfectly fine without surgical enhancements.
But having recently been hooked on Carl Hiaasen's writing, I picked up the novel -- without, oddly enough, even realizing the movie connection until I was a solid 100 pages or more along. Fortunately, by that point I already had my own vision of the principal characters and didn't have to picture Burt and Demi in those roles.
The movie was critically panned and a box-office flop. The novel, on the other hand, is an exceptional read.
Erin Grant is a stripper in a south Florida bar. A former secretary with the FBI, she took up the new career because she needed the income to fight her vile, larcenous ex-husband -- and his pet judge -- for custody of their 4-year-old daughter.
David Dilbeck is a Florida politician with a growing inventory of secret sexual perversities -- and, after a bottle-wielding brawl at the Eager Beaver, his lust for Erin Grant grows rapidly into obsession.
Meanwhile, a Florida homicide detective vacationing in Montana discovers a body floating in the water -- and the corpse just happens to have been a big fan of Erin's body of work, as well as a witness to Dilbeck's fit of indecorous behavior. One of the strippers keeps seeing famous people in the audience. A pet snake dies. A pack of rats is set free. And Shad, the Eager Beaver's burly bouncer, has hidden a very large cockroach in a container of yogurt.
Without spiraling out of control, the story grows to include a dogged investigator operating outside his jurisdiction, erotic creamed corn and linguini wrestling, an ongoing wheelchair scam, mutilated Barbie dolls, an over-his-head litigator and the powerful Florida sugar industry.
The various threads of the story come together as beautifully as Erin's outfits come apart. While in some ways a suspenseful thriller and, in others, a family drama, the story at the same time is innately funny. It all fits into a single yarn, tightly woven and colorfully devised.
It's a rare treat to discover so talented and entertaining a writer who's so well established, with an impressive library of novels already available on the shelves. Hiaasen has a wry sense of satirical humor in his writing, and his stories are intelligent and obviously well researched. I look forward to continuing my exploration of his works.
by Tom Knapp