For someone who says he's angry, Carl Hiaasen seems awfully nice. "A lot of the funniest writers I know, funniest people I know, have a deep vein of anger. It's a sense of ironic outrage at things. They're not happy-go-lucky people. They're writing for a reason. If you go back, Mark Twain was not a sunny personality most of the time. This is how you get it out."
Hiaasen is the nation's preeminent chronicler of South Florida, both in his best-selling novels and as a columnist for The Miami Herald. He doesn't paint a pretty picture. Can any state be so full of freaks, weirdos, and scum? The crime and corruption he condemns in the papers, he recycles as fodder for his dark satirical novels.
"I probably couldn't write the novels I write if I didn't have at least one toe in the newsroom," Hiaasen explains to Kurt Andersen. "Not in the sense that I'm physically there, but I'm engaged and I'm reading all the different newspapers in Florida. So this constant over-the-transom flow of sleaze inspires the novels."
(Courtesy of Random House)
Hiaasen's latest novel is Bad Monkey. It tells the story of Andrew Yancy, a flawed but decent ex-cop (kicked off the force after attacking his girlfriend's husband with a handheld vacuum cleaner). When the fates conspire to make Yancy the unwitting custodian of an arm found floating in the waters off Key West, he decides to salvage his tarnished reputation by solving the mystery. The villains in Bad Monkey are legion – insurance fraudsters, real estate developers paving paradise, corrupt cops, and a gaggle of sun-burned tourists making life hard for the locals.
In a recent column, Hiaasen called Florida "the poster child of nationwide dysfunction," but his campaign to tarnish the sunshine-state mystique has never quite worked. "I've been trying to scare people away from Florida for literally 35 years. I still get letters from readers saying, 'We love your books, but please don't be mad, we're moving to Florida anyway.' I really have roots. I love the place enough to stay and fight."
Bonus Track: An excerpt from Bad MonkeyCourtesy of Random House Audio