Hiaasen, Carl 1953–
Hiaasen, Carl 1953–
Born March 12, 1953, in Fort Lauderdale, FL; son of K. Odel (a lawyer) and Patricia Hiaasen; married Constance Lyford (a registered nurse and attorney), November 12, 1970 (divorced, 1996); married, 1999; wife's name Fenia; children: (first marriage) Scott Andrew; (second marriage) Quinn. Education: Attended Emory University, 1970-72; University of Florida, B.S., 1974.
Home—Islamorada, FL. Office—Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33101. Agent—Esther Newberg, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Novelist, journalist, columnist, and environmentalist. Cocoa Today, Cocoa, FL, reporter, 1974-76; Miami Herald, Miami, FL, reporter, 1976—, columnist, 1985—. Barry College, professor, 1978-79.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America.
National Headliners Award, distinguished service medallion, Sigma Delta Chi, public service first-place award, Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, Clarion Award, Women in Communications, Heywood Broun Award, Newspaper Guild, and Pulitzer Prize finalist in public-service reporting, all 1980, all for newspaper series about dangerous doctors; Green Eyeshade Award, Sigma Delta Chi, first-place award for in-depth reporting, Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, grand prize for investigative reporting, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Pulitzer Prize finalist in special local reporting, all 1981, all for newspaper series on drug-smuggling industry in Key West; Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 1982; Newbery Honor book designation, American Library Association, 2003, and Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2005, both for Hoot; Damon Runyon Award, 2004.
(With William D. Montalbano) Powder Burn, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1981.
(With William D. Montalbano) Trap Line, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.
(With William D. Montalbano) A Death in China, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.
Tourist Season, Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.
Double Whammy, Putnam (New York, NY), 1987.
Skin Tight, Putnam (New York, NY), 1989.
Native Tongue, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Strip Tease, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
Stormy Weather, Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Naked Came the Manatee, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Lucky You, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
Sick Puppy, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.
Basket Case, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Hoot, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Skinny Dip, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Flush (young adult), Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Nature Girl, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World (nonfiction), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1998.
Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 1999.
Paradise Screwed: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Also contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Us, Playboy, and Esquire.
Strip Tease was adapted for a film, written and directed by Andrew Bergman, starring Demi Moore and Armand Assante, Castle Rock Entertainment, 1996; Hoot was adapted for a film, directed by Wil Shriner, New Line Cinema, 2006.
As an award-winning investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen has written about dangerous doctors, drug smuggling, and other serious crimes. His fictional works reflect his exposure to—and outrage over—Florida's social ills. A native of South Florida, Hiaasen has turned his righteous indignation into humorous satire in which heroes and villains alike exhibit farcical quirks and an attachment to creative forms of violence. The good guys are often eco-terrorists seeking to preserve the ever-dwindling plots of undeveloped land; the bad guys wallow in greed as they pursue the rape of the state. According to Joe Queenan in the New York Times Book Review, Hiaasen "has made a persuasive case that the most barbaric, ignorant and just plain awful people living in this country today reside, nay flourish, in the state of Florida." Desmond Ryan cited Hiaasen in the Philadelphia Inquirer for "his customary pungency, wit and flair," adding that the novelist "has a way of leaving the reprobates and sleazebags that infest the land of the hanging chad flattened like roadkill."
The son of an attorney, Hiaasen grew up with dual interests. He wanted to be a writer, but he also enjoyed the outdoors and especially savored Florida's unspoiled wilderness areas. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1974, and by 1976 had earned a position with the Miami Herald as a reporter. He soon became a member of the newspaper's investigative team, and he continues to write two columns a week that take aim at corruption in every level of government and business. Hiaasen began his fiction-writing career with coauthor William D. Montalbano and then struck out on his own. As Polly Paddock put it in the Charlotte Observer: "Underneath all Hiaasen's hijinks, there is the righteous indignation that marks both his journalistic and novelistic work. Hiaasen hates hypocrisy, pretension, corporate greed, political corruption and the rape of the environment. He won't let us forget that."
Tourist Season, a tongue-in-cheek account of terrorists who bully Miami tourists in order to depress the tourism industry, received considerable acclaim. Tony Hillerman noted in the New York Times Book Review that Tourist Season "is full of … quick, efficient, understated little sketches of the sort of subtle truth that leaves you grinning. In fact, Mr. Hiaasen leaves you grinning a lot." Regarding the book, Hiaasen once commented that "for inspiration, all I had to do was read the daily newspaper. Crime in Miami is so bizarre that no novelist's inventions could surpass true life."
In Double Whammy, R.J. Decker, a news photographer turned private eye, tangles with a host of bizarre characters, including a former governor of Florida who lives on road kill and a murderer with the head of a pit bull attached to his arm. "The writing style is macabre-funny," noted Walter Walker in the New York Times Book Review, "and it delivers the plot's myriad twists and turns with breathtaking speed."
Greedy plastic surgeons, sensationalistic television personalities, and money-grubbing lawyers are the targets of Skin Tight, another fast-paced mix of satire and thriller. The hero, Mick Stranahan, a former Florida state investigator, is threatened by an old feud with a corrupt plastic surgeon suspected of murder. In self-defense, Stranahan keeps a trained barracuda under his stilt house. In one incident the barracuda eats the hand of a hit man trying to murder Stranahan, but the hit man gets a weed trimmer as a prosthesis—and then comes after Stranahan again. In the New York Times Book Review, Katherine Dunn observed that while the author's tone in Skin Tight does not hold the same warmth toward its subjects as did Tourist Season, it is still fascinating and impressive. She added: "No one has ever designed funnier, more terrifying bad guys, or concocted odder ways of doing away with them."
Hiaasen's novel Native Tongue garnered similar praise. In the book, the fragile ecology of the Florida Keys is exploited and damaged by theme-park developers and environmental activists alike. According to Jack Viertel, writing for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Hiaasen "might be termed a South Florida hybrid of Jonathan Swift, Randy Newman, and Elmore Leonard…. His novels are shot through with a kind of real passion that lurks beneath the manic prose—an urgent affection for his subject." Viertel concluded: "The ultimate enemy is always the same: overdevelopment of the last remaining wilderness in the state."
Strip Tease features a genuine heroine, Erin Grant, who resorts to nude dancing so that she can continue to finance the fight for custody of her daughter. Grant's ex-husband, the wheelchair-stealing Darrell, is one of the novel's many villains; others include a state congressman beholden to Florida's powerful sugar-growers. Writing for the Times Literary Supplement, Karl Miller remarked: "Hiaasen is against graft, exploitation, and the destruction of the environment. This is an ecologically green black comedy, in which men are scum and it is ‘women's work,’ according to Erin, to destroy them." In 1996, the novel was released as a motion picture starring Demi Moore.
In Stormy Weather, Hiaasen uses the aftermath of a devastating hurricane to once again skewer the greedy and corrupt in South Florida. Characters include Edie Marsh, a con woman who has tried in vain to blackmail the Kennedys but who recognizes a new opportunity for enrichment when the hurricane blows through; an advertising executive who ends his honeymoon at Disneyland to venture to Miami to videotape the storm's damage; and a recurring Hiaasen bit player, the one-eyed former governor of Florida who now lives in the swamp, sustaining himself with road kill. Chicago Tribune Books reviewer Gary Dretzka noted: "Hiaasen writes with the authority of a documentary film-maker…. He displays no mercy for anyone perceived as being responsible for defiling his home environment." Calling Stormy Weather "caustic and comic," Time critic John Skow explained the author's use of villains in his literary formula: "turn over a rock and watch in glee and honest admiration as those little rascals squirm in the light."
An eco-terrorist with an anger-management problem serves as the hero in Sick Puppy. After seeking revenge on a litterbug, Twilly Spree discovers that the target of his revenge is also a big-time lobbyist involved in expediting the illegal sale of an untouched barrier island. Twilly kidnaps the man's dog and wife in the hope of using them as leverage to save the island. In the meantime, the lobbyist enlists the help of an unscrupulous developer and his sadistic sidekick to put an end to Twilly. A Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the book "a devilishly funny caper" in which Hiaasen "shows himself to be a comic writer at the peak of his powers." Bill Ott observed in Booklist that "Hiaasen's brand of apocalyptic surrealism is nothing if not distinctive."
The publication of Basket Case marked a departure for Hiaasen. The novel is narrated in the first person by a principled journalist named Jack Tagger, and among the villains is the newspaper industry itself. Still, characteristic Hiaasen humor reigns. Tagger, an obituary writer, investigates the suspicious death of a former rock star, the lead singer of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies. Jimmy's silly lyrics are offered for the reader's perusal alongside Tagger's obsession with death and with the decline of serious reportage in newspapers. Ott, in a review for Booklist, applauded Hiaasen for venturing beyond "his unique brand of apocalyptic surrealism" to produce "a rip-roaringly entertaining tale." Orlando Sentinel reviewer William McKeen declared that Basket Case "is what loyal readers have come to expect from the guy—an intelligent, funny, deeply moral book about the decline of Western Civilization." McKeen was particularly delighted with Tagger, declaring him "probably one of Hiaasen's most endearing fictional characters." In the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jeff Guinn concluded that Basket Case "proves two things about … Hiaasen: He was brave enough to venture beyond the sarcastic humor/ecological themes that characterized his first eight novels, and he is a huge writing talent whose finest fiction may be yet to come."
Skinny Dip tells the tale of Chaz Perrone, an incompetent and greedy marine scientist who is helping a tycoon to illegally dump fertilizer into the Everglades. Perrone attempts to kill his wife, Joey, after she finds out about his illegal doings. But Joey survives and with the help of former cop Mick Stranahan begins to haunt and taunt her husband, in a comic romp that has its roots in the current events of the Sunshine State. Another novel, Nature Girl, takes elements of two Shakespearian comedies—A Midsummer's Night Dream and As You Like It—and transports them to modern-day Florida in the middle of the Ten Thousand Islands, a region of wilderness that stands in for the Forest of Arden. A group of lovers find themselves wandering through this wilderness along with a series of characters that includes a Seminole Indian and a fishmonger who is stalking them. Rather than focusing on the environment, in this book Hiaasen instead tackles the subject of how people treat each other. Henrietta Clancy, reviewing for New Statesman, remarked: "Hiaasen's satirical wizardry is constantly entertaining." Oline H. Cogdill, in a review for the Sun-Sentinel, remarked that the book "will never be mistaken for a hard-boiled novel. But the mystery of human behavior is the real plot twist."
In Hoot Hiaasen keep his characters dedicated to a higher cause, but this time Hiaasen's audience includes younger readers as he focuses on protagonists who are children. "My stepson, nephews and nieces are always bugging me about reading one of my books," the author was quoted as saying in Book. "Obviously, some of the language and adult situations went out the window, but I created the same sensibilities in my kid characters that my adult ones walk around with." Hoot tells the story of Roy Eberhardt, a middle-school student who moves into Coconut Cove with his family and tries to adjust to life in South Florida. Before long, he is dealing with a bully, a mysterious boy called Mullet Fingers, and a protest group hoping to stop a construction project that threatens the habitat of owls. In a review for the School Library Journal, Miranda Doyle found the novel "entertaining but ultimately not very memorable," while a Publishers Weekly contributor predicted that "characteristically quirky characters and comic twists will surely gain the author new fans." Bill Ott, writing for Booklist, praised Hiaasen for letting "his inner kid run rampant" and added that the book "is full of offbeat humor, buffoonish yet charming supporting characters, and genuinely touching scene of children enjoying the wildness of nature." Not only did Hoot earn praise from both readers and reviewers, but it was awarded a Newberry Honor, one of the highest awards in the world of children's books.
Hoot was also made into a successful film geared toward family audiences. In an interview with Sue-Ellen Beauregard for Booklist, Hiaasen explains how the movie got its start: "My good friend Jimmy Buffet called me to tell me his daughter loved the book, and he wondered if I would be interested in optioning it as a movie. He thought his friend Wil Shriner might be interested in doing the screenplay. We all grew up in Florida, so there is a tremendous Florida connection. The three of us got together in the Keys to talk it over, and then Wil started working on the script. We let Jimmy do his magic with the Hollywood people, and that's how everything got rolling." Hiaasen was able to have a fair amount of control over the script, due to his association with the people involved, and ultimately even had a cameo role.
Another mystery that centers on the ecosystems of his home state of Florida, Flush follows the adventures of Paine Underwood and his children Noah and Abbey as they attempt to stop Dusty Muleman, the owner of a local floating casino from dumping sewage into the area waters. Paine goes so far as to sink the Coral Queen, an act that gets him thrown in jail, and has his wife talking about divorce. Noah and Abbey, however, are far more understanding of their father's determination, and they throw their efforts in with Paine. Stephanie Zvirin, writing for Booklist, opined that "the sparkle that catapulted Hoot into the limelight isn't quite as brilliant here." However, Betty Carter, in a review for Horn Book, remarked that "Hiaasen hits his stride" with this effort, adding that "it is the multidimensional characters who give the novel its vitality." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "while much of this adventure … is predictable, Hiaasen creates enough interesting plot twists to keep the pages turning." Joel Shoemaker, reviewing for the School Library Journal, pointed out a few flaws in the overall plot, but concluded that "the environmental story is front and center and readers will be hooked as the good guys try to do the right thing."
In addition to his adult novels and children's books, Hiaasen has also published several volumes of his collected columns, as well as Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, a scathing critique of the Walt Disney Corporation. Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Mike Williams observed that in his nonfiction, "Hiaasen wastes no time. He sets his tone to rapid-fire acerbic, squeezes off a few rounds to clear his muzzle, then goes on full automatic, like Rambo taking on the world." In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, David Grimes remarked that "reading a collection of Carl Hiaasen's newspaper columns reveals a frightening truth about his loopy novels: They're not that big an exaggeration." Southern Cultures reviewer David Zucchino maintained that when "Hiaasen opens fire … he is pitiless. He savages the men and institutions he believes are turning his beloved Miami and South Florida into a crass, violent, drug-soaked strip mall." A Publishers Weekly critic felt that Hiaasen "writes with an old-time columnist's sense of righteous rage and an utterly current and biting wit."
As to what Hiaasen hopes to do in his fiction, ahe author once told a People interviewer: "All I ever ask of my main characters is that their hearts are in the right place, that when they step over the law it's for a higher cause." Discussing why he became an author, Hiassen told a contributor to the Writer that he "enjoyed writing and getting a reaction" when he was very young. He added: "I think it's some sort of extension of being a class clown—that if you could write something and make somebody laugh, it was a good gig to have. I think there was an element of psychotherapy—it was a legal outlet for some of the ideas I was wanting to express as a kid."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 14, 1998, Mike Williams, "Hiaasen Tackles ‘Rodent’ That Ate Florida," p. L11; January 2, 2000, Phil Kloer, "Hiaasen's ‘Sick’ Tale a Fun Ride," p. K12.
Book, September-October, 2002, "Kidding Around: Youth-oriented Books by Adult Authors," p. 66.
Booklist, November 1, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Sick Puppy, p. 483; May 1, 2001, Bill Ott, "Hiaasen's People," p. 1704; September 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Paradise Screwed: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, p. 184; November 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Basket Case, p. 444; October 15, 2002, Bill Ott, review of Hoot, p. 405; May 1, 2006, Sue-Ellen Beauregard, interview with Hiaasen, p. 53.
Charlotte Observer, January 16, 2002, Polly Paddock, review of Basket Case; August, 2005, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Flush, p. 2028.
Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2002, Patrick T. Reardon, review of Basket Case.
Entertainment Weekly, January 18, 2002, Bruce Fretts, "Sunny Delight," p. 72.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 9, 2002, Jeff Guinn, review of Basket Case.
Horn Book, September-October, 2005, Betty Carter, review of Flush, p. 579.
Houston Chronicle, January 16, 2000, Jim Barlow, "Carl Hiaasen: The Kinky Friedman of Thriller Writers," p. 17.
Library Journal, June 15, 1981; March 15, 1986.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 13, 1991, Jack Viertel, review of Native Tongue, p. 9.
Maclean's, January 17, 2002, Paula Friedman, review of Basket Case, p. 2.
New Statesman, January 29, 2007, Henrietta Clancy, "Modern Manners" review of Nature Girl, p. 67.
New York Times, June 14, 1998, Deborah Stead, review of Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, p. B9; January 6, 2000, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Lots of Bad-natured Floridians and One Good-natured Dog," p. B10; January 3, 2002, Janet Maslin, "An Obit Writer's Renewed Zest for Life," p. B13.
New York Times Book Review, March 16, 1986, Tony Hillerman, review of Tourist Season, p. 23; March 6, 1988, Walter Walker, review of Double Whammy, p. 20; October 15, 1989, Katherine Dunn, review of Skin Tight, p. 42; January 9, 2000, Joe Queenan, "Everything Is Rotten in the State of Florida," p. 10; March 25, 2001, Scott Veale, review of Sick Puppy, p. 28.
Orlando Sentinel, January 16, 2002, William McKeen, review of Basket Case.
People, May 15, 2000, Christina Cheakalos, "Hurricane Hiaasen," p. 139.
Philadelphia Inquirer, January 16, 2002, Desmond Ryan, review of Basket Case.
Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1999, review of Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, p. 61; November 8, 1999, review of Sick Puppy, p. 49; November 12, 2001, review of Basket Case, p. 36; June 24, 2002, review of Hoot, p. 58; June 27, 2005, review of Flush, p. 64.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, September 2, 2001, David Grimes, "More Florida Bad Guys in Carl Hiaasen Collection," p. E5.
School Library Journal, September 1, 2005, Joel Shoemaker, review of Flush, p. 204.
Southern Cultures, fall, 2000, David Zucchino, review of Kick Ass, p. 73.
Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), November 15, 2006, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Nature Girl.
Time, August 14, 1995, John Skow, review of Stormy Weather, p. 70.
Times Literary Supplement, November 5, 1993, Karl Miller, review of Strip Tease, p. 12.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 13, 1995, Gary Dretzka, review of Stormy Weather, p. 5.
Variety, July 13, 1998, Andrew Paxman, review of Team Rodent, p. 6.
Writer, June, 2003, "Carl Hiaasen (How I Write)," p. 66.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (January 27, 2002), Jay Lee MacDonald, "Carl Hiaasen Takes a Bite out of Crimes against the Environment."
Carl Hiaasen Home Page,http://www.carlhiaasen.com (June 4, 2007).