Be careful if you travel to Florida. Be very careful. If you litter, step on an animal’s tail, or so much as look at a piece of oceanfront property, you may well become the object of Carl Hiaasen‘s biting scorn.
Star Island (Skink #6) by Carl Hiaasen (2010) 416 pages
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Hiaasen, a columnist for the Miami Herald for nearly a quarter-century, is the author of 12 satirical novels about life in Florida. His work is — not to put too fine an edge on it — hysterically funny. Star Island is the latest installment in Hiaasen’s running battle with developers, politicians, tourists, dim-witted criminals, poachers, poseurs, and other assorted miscreants, often bearing unlikely names and usually engaged in some form or other of environmental crime. Carl Hiaasen is not a fan of the people who drained the swamps and built Miami, even though he’s lived there most of his life.
In Star Island, Hiaasen ventures forth from the realm of environmentalism to skewer celebrities in all their narcissistic glory. The central object of his less-than-tender attention is Cherry Pye, nee Cheryl Gail Bunterman, who resembles Britney Spears in many ways. At 22, Cherry has barely survived her teens; her fondness for constant and varied chemical stimulation seems to ensure that she will not survive her 20s, or even, possibly, tonight’s party.
Cherry Pye’s entourage includes her parents, from whom she has inherited her overly rosy self-image; her publicists, the botoxified Lark twins, who specialize in high-wattage celebrities on their way into the gutter; her record and concert producer, Maury Lykes, who in reality seems to like nothing and nobody except underage foreign-born models, usually two or three at a time; a gaggle of paparazzi, most notably Claude “Bang” Abbott, who won a Pulitzer for spot photography by luring a killer shark to a swimming tourist and catching on film the man’s arm being severed from his body; and Cherry’s “undercover stunt double,” a look-alike actress named Ann DeLusia, of whose existence Cherry is blissfully unaware. Ann is paid to make public appearances at night clubs, concerts, and other venues where Cherry is expected but is unable to show up herself due to what her mother insists is “gastritis.” This affliction, in Cherry’s case, invariably involves having her stomach pumped.
As we join this none-too-happy assemblage, Cherry is on the verge of releasing her second comeback album (“Skantily Klad”) and once again launching a comeback tour. Suffice it to say that complications ensue. Many complications. Among the most notable of these is Ann’s encounter with the one constant fixture in Hiaasen’s novels, a Vietnam war hero and ex-Governor of Florida now in his 60s who mysteriously disappeared from Tallahassee after a short while in office and has been living with the crocodiles in a swamp ever since, wreaking revenge in colorful ways on anyone within earshot who has despoiled the environment.
I could go on, but I won’t. You’ve gotta read it for yourself.
For further reading
If you want to read my review of another hilarious novel by Carl Hiaasen, go to Reality TV, African rodents, and the roach patrol.
If your taste runs more to genre fiction, check out: