Florida Turned Up To 11

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Rating: 4 Stars

I have a weakness for Florida crime novels. I remember reading Double Whammy by Carl Hiassen and being blown away by the insanity of it. It was in many ways a transgressive example of crime fiction, which I had never encountered before.

Now, as with a lot of transgressive fiction (<cough> Chuck Palahniuk <cough>), once you read several examples of an author’s work, it loses its transgressive nature and just becomes the author’s style. So it became with Carl Hiassen. I’ve read most of his stories, but either due to my getting used to his style or because of the authorial pressures of having to crank out a novel every year or two,  the newer works just did not have the same effect on me.

A friend recommended that I read Tim Dorsey. As is my way, I started with his first novel.

And yes, he out Hiassen’d Hiassen. His Florida is a circus sideshow where aberrant characters abound. It’s a cartoon, but it’s a gory, glorious cartoon. Florida Man is alive and well and living in Dorsey’s world.

I really should caveat that previous statement somewhat. It actually is a cleverly plotted and constructed novel. There are many characters and they flit in and out of each other’s plot arc throughout.  It’s just that, with three or four possible exceptions, there’s not a social redeeming character among them. In fact, the closest thing to a protagonist is Serge Storm (featured in several subsequent novels), who is manically insane and homicidal.

Just like the manic Serge Storm, every stereotypical aspect of Florida flits in momentarily here, from guest appearances  of Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry to a space shuttle launch to the Marlins World Series win to a stampede of Hemingway lookalikes. It goes without saying that there are drug dealers, corrupt doctors, corrupt real estate dealings, and corrupt politicians.

After all, this is Florida.

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