Showing posts with label bad monkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bad monkey. Show all posts

20 July 2013

Hiaasen on the Cake





by John M. Floyd


I have an interesting, if not always accurate, theory. A two-part observation, actually. Country music singers seem to make good actors, and newspaper writers seem to make good novelists. Case in point: Miami Herald journalist and mystery author Carl Hiaasen.  (I won't get into examples of country singers/actors, but I still defend my theory.)

Another observation. Hiaasen has developed a pattern, with the titles of his books: most are two words each. Tourist SeasonDouble WhammySkin TightNative TongueStrip Tease, Stormy WeatherLucky YouSick PuppyBasket CaseSkinny DipNature GirlStar Island. His young-adult novels, oddly enough, feature one-word titles. HootFlushScatChomp.

I've read 'em all. I finished his latest, Bad Monkey, a few days ago. It's a delightful read, with a great setting and an intriguing plot. The location is, as usual, Florida, and this one's set in the Keys, which is even more fun. As for the plot, it's complex but believable, consisting of Medicare fraud, arson, drug trafficking, bribery, murder, and a host of other crimes, and makes for a suspenseful story.

But all that, as good as it is, is only icing on the cake. The main attraction of any Hiaasen novel, the reason most of his fans read him, is his quirky characters. No, make that outrageous characters. And yes, it doesn't hurt that they're residents of the Sunshine State--we already know from Leigh that most of the peninsula can be a loony bin. It's an extension of the old joke-theory that at one point the nation bowed up in the middle and all the loose nuts rolled to both coasts; in popular fiction, those on the east side seem to have rolled all the way down and collected in Florida.

The folks in the latest Hiaasen book remind me of those one might find in a Coen Brothers movie (Raising Arizona, maybe). Here's a sampling of the players in Bad Monkey:



Andrew Yancy -- Former police officer, demoted now to restaurant inspection duty (also known as roach patrol).

Dr. Rosa Campesino -- Miami coroner who yearns for more excitement in her life, probably because all her patients are deceased.

Bonnie Witt, a.k.a. Plover Chase -- sex-offender and fugitive from Tulsa; also Yancy's former (and sometimes current) love interest.

Evan Shook -- Hapless real-estate developer who's attempting to build a McMansion between Yancy's beach house and his cherished view of the ocean sunsets.

Nicky Strickland -- Ruthless killer and con artist, always wears an orange rain poncho. The discovery of his severed arm sets the novel's plot in motion.

Eve Strickland -- Nicky's plump, upscale, greedy, screwball wife.

Sonny Summers -- Lazy but opportunistic sheriff who busts Yancy from detective to roach inspector.

K. J. Claspers -- Freelance pilot who specializes in drug smuggling but isn't really out to get rich. He just loves to fly.

Johnny Mendez -- Retired Miami cop who made a fortune calling in tips about crimes that had already been solved.

Neville Stafford -- Island native engaged in a fight with corporate bullies who want to spoil his natural homeland (a recurring Hiaasen theme).

The Dragon Queen -- Deranged voodoo priestess who tricks Neville into selling her his "bad" monkey.

Cody Parish -- Scatterbrained, lovesick kid who fancies himself the Clyde in Bonnie Witt's criminal escapades.

Egg -- Bald, hulking henchman, real name Ecclestone. He's the Dragon Queen's boyfriend, and one of the book's worst (meaning "best") villains.

Caitlin Cox -- Nicky and Eve's daughter, and just as goofy and conniving as her parents.

John Wesley Weiderman -- Tough but sympathetic FBI agent who mistakenly figured his Key West assignment would be a vacation.

Driggs -- A demented, pipe-smoking, feces-flinging monkey who supposedly once starred with Johnny Depp in his pirate movies and has since suffered a reversal of fortune.



This is only some of the cast. How could a novel populated with characters like that not be fun?

In closing, let me say that I've always enjoyed reading humorous authors: Janet Evanovich, Christopher Buckley, Steve Martin, Charlaine Harris, Kinky Friedman, Douglas Adams, Tim Dorsey, Woody Allen--even Nelson DeMille, who writes novels with serious themes but includes something witty on almost every page. In my opinion, that kind of talent is a true gift.

Carl Hiaasen's one of the best.