The author of nearly 20 novels naturally wanted to talk about his newest breezy read, "Razor Girl." He was also ready to wax about his beloved
"You look at what America is gobbling up, and you always write in fear that no matter how weird and depraved your fiction is, it's going to look tame," he said.
But Hiaasen, who will talk about "Razor Girl" and whatever else he wants
Hold it. Self-loathing Norwegians? Does he know we invented self-loathing Norwegians in
"My grandfather grew up in
It gets better. Hiaasen's grandfather married a woman from
"He kept a picture of the graveyard, and we found it and arranged to have him buried there," Hiaasen said.
A blend of
"Razor Girl" is set in the
"My son, who was working at the Herald at the time, sent me this clip about an accident involving a woman who was grooming herself at high speed," Hiaasen said. "And I thought: I have to find a way to get this into a novel, because no one's going to believe this."
He wove that incident into another
"There is a whole cottage industry of people who stage accidents," Hiaasen said. "They work for crooked lawyers, crooked chiropractors, crooked doctors. They take old cars, crash into people, and the insurance companies say, 'Settle it.' "
An encounter between the Razor Girl and a mediocre
Hiaasen had never brought back a character from one novel to the next, but he felt he wasn't finished with Yancey. Besides, the character allowed Hiaasen to plumb the rich trove of restaurant inspections that are posted online in
"There are separate categories for live and dead roaches, so these inspectors have to sit there and count which ones are moving and which ones are dead," Hiaasen said. "So what would you do if you were a hotshot cop [like Yancey] and this is what you're doing?"
Greed gobbling up the state
Hiaasen, 63, grew up in
He worked as an investigative reporter and then became one of those rare newspaper journalists who become columnists. They get to stick their mug on the page and imagine that readers care what they think. He has used that soapbox to decry the degradation of his beloved state and to stick a shiv between the ribs of politicians who allow countless yards of concrete to be poured and regulations to be bent. His homeland, an accident of tropical beauty, has become a bizarre kind of metaphor for America.
"It's a question of selling out," he said. "When I was 5, 6 years old, you saw these places disappearing, and it affects you. And it should as an adult. It's so beautiful."
Hiaasen perhaps protests too much. He had for years a swanky shack in Islamadora, a point on the Keys best known recently as the setting for the hit Netflix drama "Bloodline." The beachfront property has six bedrooms, a guesthouse, a cabana, an oversized pool and a private beach. He sold it this year after listing it for
"When I first moved there in 1994, Ted was there a little bit, but it's gotten exponentially more crowded," Hiaasen said. "I love the Keys, but you have 6 million people within a 2 1/2 -hour drive."
Writing in many venues
He started writing fiction in 1981 with
Hiaasen has also written novels for young audiences, rummaging in much the same environmental issues and weird characters, although he obviously doesn't include someone such as a half-naked woman shaving herself on the expressway.
Then there is the Herald column he writes weekly from his
"Fraud, criminal scam, election mayhem, it usually happens first in
Hiaasen writes in an instantly recognizable style. The pace is swift, the humor irreverent, the ideas presented simply through metaphors rather than dialectic argument. Newspaper writing taught him to grab readers early and get them on their way.
The work, while financially and spiritually rewarding, leaves him spent at the end of a long day in his home office. If you imagine him staring at the gorgeous
"My mission is to make people laugh for the right reasons -- that's the trick of satire," he said. "But I don't come out of my office with a grin on my face. I come out looking like I just went to a funeral.
"By the 25th time that I'm scanning something, I'm looking at every comma, semicolon, how it rings in my head. It's exhausting if you're doing it right."
Ah, he is a self-loathing Norwegian.
No place like home
When he's not writing, fishing, walking the beach or scanning the news for ripe folly, Hiaasen is on the book tour treadmill. In 18 hours, he swoops into town, finds his hotel room, does interviews, signings and events and flies out again. And for all its insanity,
"I feel like I'm home. Part of that is because I've lived here my whole life, but part of it is that it's such an incredibly beautiful place," he said.
His brief visit to
"This is the curse of the book tour," he said. "When I'm there, I'm always on business.
"When we buried my grandfather, we went out from
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