Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I had read two very heavy dark books in a row, and in order to lighten my mood on the recommendation of Margot Kinberg I read Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen.
This Florida based novel is hilarious, and had me laughing out loud at the outrageous characters and their antics. Although I have to admit to having come across characters almost as way out as these in my career.

Attractive blonde Joey Perrone is on a second anniversary cruise aboard the M.V. Sun Duchess when her husband Chaz throws her overboard.

' She had been co-captain of her college swim team, a biographical detail that her husband obviously had forgotten.'

Joey survives, and is rescued by Mick Stranahan, a retired reclusive ex-cop with a string of ex-wives and a friendly dog. Rather than go to the police the gorgeous and feisty Joey, presumed dead, and Mick decide to make Chaz's life a living hell.

Chaz, Dr Charles Perrone, a "marine biologist" has a well paid scheme going with Red Hammernut to falsify water samples taken from the Everglades so that Hammernut's farming business avoids paying huge fines for polluting the environment. Chaz believes Joey knows about the fraud, and will inform the authorities, so she has to die. Chaz and Hammernut have too much to lose.

'A big farming operation like his was a challenging enterprise, relying as it did on rampant pollution and the systematic mistreatment of immigrant labor. For Red it was no small feat to keep the feds off his back while at the same time soaking the taxpayers for lucrative crop subsidies that might or might not be repaid this century.'

The memorable supporting cast of characters include:

Karl Rolvaag, a python owning detective desperate to leave Florida for his home state of Minnesota.

'From his vantage Rolvaag counted five dogs, all of them edibly sized for a python.'

Earl Edward O'Toole, [Tool] a huge hairy neanderthal body guard, who forms a kindly relationship with Maureen, an elderly lady dying of cancer, while looking for drugs in her nursing home.

"Really. And back in the Netherlands you're a physician?"
"No, a doctor," he said pointedly.
Sneaky little bitch, Tool thought, squeezing himself into the Grand Marquis. Thought she could trick me!

With Corbett, Joey's eccentric sheep farming brother from New Zealand, Ricca Chaz's girlfriend, and a crazy one eyed Vietnam veteran living in the swamps entering the action at various stages there are plenty more laughs.

But with plenty of mosquitos, saw grass, snakes, swamps, duckweed, leeches, gators, and crooks the novel had a wonderful sense of place in glorious South Florida. Of course behind all the frivolity was the serious message about overpopulation and the subsequent pollution.

Ninety percent of the original 'glades had been developed, converted to agriculture or otherwise debauched. The only untrampled remnant was a national park, the waters of which were of dubious purity.

Skinny Dip is a brilliantly funny novel with memorable characters, and it also proves once again that crime fiction is a useful tool to both educate and get across an important agenda.

" But I'm still bleeding, for God's sake."
"Did you ever see Deliverance?" the blackmailer said. "Remember what happened to the chubby guy?"
Chaz Perrone started paddling.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - I'm so glad that you enjoyed Skinny Dip. I really thought it was hysterically funny, too, but you never do know what others will think. Folks, if you haven't read it, please do give it a go. I really think you'll enjoy...

7:21 AM  
Blogger Mack said...

Norman, I enjoyed this one as well and recommend it for a fun light read. Hiaasen is still the master of Florida noir humor. I also recommend Skin Tight, the first Hiaaasen I read. It has scenes and characters that still make me laugh just thinking about them over 10 years later. Skin tight also introduced Mick Stranahan who features in Skinny Dip

8:21 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Margot- thanks very much for the recommendation I needed a good laugh.

Mack- thanks for the info I will get Skin Tight, as I am sure with the stress of life I will need some light reading again.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

I'm glad you mentioned this book the other day because I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it and I am going to grab a couple of his others for those times when a laugh is called for.

You might want to track down Mystery Man by Bateman as well - different kind of humour (more dry, less slapstick) but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Bernadette, I will look out for Bateman as I get older I need more laughs.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Thanks for reminding me how much I liked "Skinny Dip," when I first read it.

I'm laughing out loud reading the quotes you posted, and I laughed so hard when I read it.

The "doctor" exchange did it.

Now I'm going to reread it and get "Skin Tight."

2:42 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Kathy. I think I need a supply of Hiassens to cheer me up between the dark and depressing novels and real life.

3:29 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes! I heartily endorse that. Chocolate (works for me) and Hiaasens are good remedies.

In fact, I think I'll buy "Skinny Dip" for a friend and get "Skin Tight" for myself to have around to look at in times of woe.

3:59 AM  

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