Posts Tagged ‘Key West’


Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen, cover(Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen. Knopf, 2017, $35.95, 333 pp.)

If you need some relief from the sociopath in chief, from the relentless, surly glob of suet that Grant Brisbee describes as the “walking embodiment of the seven deadly sins,” here you go.

Carl Hiaasen delivers some welcome and extremely funny not-quite-escapism in Razor Girl, which in many ways is a typical Hiaasen novel. (In this context, “typical” is a very good thing.) It’s set in Florida, and it abounds in grotesque characters, grotesque incidents, amusing, well written dialogue, and laugh-out-loud passages, the funniest of which involves the side effects of a “male enhancement” product and a blood pressure cuff. There’s also pointed political and social commentary, and, as always in Hiiasen’s novels, sympathetic central characters with decidedly casual respect for the law.

The title character in Razor Girl, Merry Mansfield, is based on a real person who, like Merry, engaged in a common criminal scam involving deliberate auto accidents. What’s not common about Merry and the actual criminal is that they engage(d) in this scam while shaving their . . . well, no need to go there. . . .

The central male character is Andrew Yancy, a former detective who was busted to “roach patrol” (health inspector) after assaulting an ex-girlfriend’s husband with a mini-vacuum cleaner. Here, Yancy wants to gain reinstatement by investigating the disappearance in Key West of Buck Nance, the patriarch in the highly staged “reality” TV show, Bayou Brethren, which follows the misadventures of a supposed clan in the Florida panhandle that runs a rooster farm.

Shortly, we meet a variety of well drawn, seedy characters, including Martin Trebeaux the founder of Sedimental Journeys, a company that illegally dredges sand in one place and then sells it in another; Brock Richardson, an entitled, grubbily materialistic Miami lawyer who’s made a career of hustling product-liability cases; Lance Coolman, the sleazy agent who represents Buck Nance; and Buck’s super fan, idiot racist, homophobe, and career criminal Blister Krill, who’s so obsessed with Bayou Brethren that he’s had Buck’s nickname (from the rooster farm), “Captain Cock,” tattooed across his shoulders.

Without giving anything else away, we’ll note that while this is a comic novel, there are a lot of characters and the plot is fairly complex, so you need to pay attention as you read, which is one of the book’s strengths: Razor Girl is much more than just a collection of funny characters and incidents — it’s well plotted, and its author never insults the reader’s intelligence.

Highly recommended.


Best State Ever, by Dave BarryBest.State.Ever., by Dave Barry. (New York: Putnam’s, 2016, $27.00, 229 pp.)

Every now and then I take a break from reading science fiction and heavy nonfiction and dive into some fluff, something purely humorous with no pretensions of substance. Which brings us to Dave Barry’s latest, Best.State.Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland.

When I saw the book’s garish cover, given that I’ve always enjoyed Barry’s writing, my fascination with the weird and grotesque, and Florida’s well deserved reputation as home of the twisted and demented — it’s the only state with its own Fark tag — I went “Oh yeah!” and picked up the book, which covers Barry’s travels to various oddball Florida communities (yes, that is a bit redundant) and tourist attractions.

Barry doesn’t disappoint. In Best.State.Ever., despite its being a very slight book — 229 pages, but with wide page margins (that is, a lot of “white space”), a lot of deliberately tacky, low quality photos interspersed with the text, and very wide leading (space between the lines) — Barry delivers the goods. Parts of the book are funnier than hell, and the book is not entirely substance free: Barry delivers occasional insightful political and social comments along with the humor.

Here’s an example, regarding a trendy nightclub in Miami:

Hanging over our heads are speakers the size of Porta-Potties. They’re emitting the musical stylings of tonight’s celebrity DJ, who is known as Alesso. I am not going to get into my usual rant about ‘celebrity DJs,’ a concept that utterly baffles me inasmuch as we’re talking about people who are playing recorded music, which does not require any more musical talent than operating a microwave oven, in the sense that you could train a reasonably bright Labrador retriever to perform either task, yet somehow these DJs are international celebrities who jet around the world getting huge sums of money to play recorded music THAT THEY DIDN’T EVEN RECORD AND MEANWHILE REAL MUSICIANS WHO CAN PLAY ACTUAL INSTRUMENTS ARE STARVING.

Yep. Nailed it.

If you’re looking for some light reading, check out Best.State.Ever. It’s the funniest thing I’ve read in ages.

Recommended.