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Posts Tagged ‘Star Island’

I fully expect Clinton Tyree to garner a number of write-in votes in the upcoming Florida gubernatorial election. Or some may just scribble “Skink,” the name the former governor of the Sunshine State goes by these days in Carl Hiaasen’s wild and crazy novels. Ever since Tallahassee politics drove him off the deep-end, Skink has been hiding in the South Florida swamps, dining off roadkill and blissing out to classic rock on an ancient boombox, emerging only to deal out eco-justice to those who would harm his beloved state.

“The cherished wild places of his childhood had vanished under cinder blocks and asphalt, and so, too, had the rest of the state been transformed — hijacked by greedy suckworms disguised as upright citizens. From swampy lairs Skink would strike whenever an opportunity arose, and the message was never ambiguous.”

No kidding. After reading Hiaasen’s latest romp, Star Island, I’ll never look at sea urchins in quite the same way. But remembering how a frozen monitor lizard became a murder weapon in a previous book, and an amorous dolphin committed foul play in another, I’m not surprised. Count me among the Carlheads  pleased to see Skink in action again, as well as Chemo, the facially disfigured felon with a weed-whacker for an arm. (A barracuda took a bite of the original). 

Actually, Skink and Chemo play supporting, although significant roles, in Star Island, which falls into the classic Carl tradition of outrageous, chuckle-inducing satire. As Hiaasen himself has noted, making fun of the weirdness that is Florida is like shooting fish in a barrel. No matter that his targets are Shamu-sized this time around, his aim is as true as ever.

Meet Cherry Pye, born Cheryl Gayle Bunterman in Orlando 22 years ago, who rose to teen stardom after being spotted as a cart-wheeling cowgirl on Nicklelodeon by talent shark Maury Lykes, producer of Jailbait Records. That Cherry cannot sing proves no hindrance to her pop-tart fame. She can dance and lip-synch with the best of them on a good day. Alas, much to the displeasure of Maury and her stage-managing parents Ned and Janet, Cherry hasn’t had many good days lately because of numerous overdoses, meltdowns, sexcapades. And she’s not the most intelligent ant at the picnic.

Because the made-to-look identical twin sisters, the Larks, only can put so much spin on their celebrity client’s repeat offenses, actress Ann DeLuisa is secretly hired as Cherry’s “undercover stunt double” to fool the tabloid press and paparozzi. When Cherry’s in rehab or gone AWOL with actor Tanner Dane Keefe on Star Island, Ann’s in dark glasses at the South Beach clubs and parties. 

But plans for Cherry’s new CD and concert tour go terribly wrong (Have you ever noticed how often cable TV anchors use that phrase?).  Photographer Claude “Bang” Abbott, who “once worked for a serious newspaper, back in the day when newspapers mattered,” mistakenly kidnaps Ann, who has smarts as well as looks. She also has a phone number to reach out to Skink, who was so impressed with her during a recent bus hijacking, that he rushes from the mangroves to her rescue. Mayhem ensues. Toss in a sleazy developer, a scumbag politician, a scorned source for “maggot mob” members like Claude, a South American hitman, the aforementioned Chemo (now Cherry’s security guard), a few gullible tourists, and, wow, Hiaasen has really chummed that barrel.

It is literally a sad state of affairs (although very funny) when Hiaasen has to go so far over the top to keep up with current headlines. But it gets harder and harder to make this stuff up about Florida now that other states — South Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas — are putting their brand on bizarre. Yet Jersey Shore still cast its second-season net to Miami. Cherry Pye all around!

Open Book: I bought the e-book edition of Star Island (Knopf) to add to my permanent collection, which began with 1986’s Tourist Season.  I think that was also the same year I first interviewed Carl. Central Florida Carlheads should know that the author is scheduled to sign copies of Star Island at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at Borders in Winter Park. (Still working on how he’ll sign my e-book).

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