If you’ve read many of Carl Hiaasen‘s more than two dozen novels, you’ve probably come across the six-foot-six, one-eyed Florida ex-governor who’s gone feral in the Everglades and subsists largely on road kill. His name is Clinton Tyree, but other than a few close friends, one and all know him as Skink. By partnering with rogue cops, desperate private eyes, and assorted idealists, Skink carries on a running battle with the forces of greed that seek to subjugate what little remains of Florida’s natural beauty. And if you wonder where the man came from and how he lost that eye, pick up a copy of Double Whammy, in which Skink first enters the scene.
For the record, Double Whammy is a story about bass fishing. Largemouth bass, to be specific. And unless you’re like one of the “fish people” who populate this sometimes hilarious novel, you’ll probably learn more than you ever want to know about largemouth bass and the fanatics who obsess over them. Just to be clear, I’ve gone fishing only one time in my life — it was a rare episode alone with my dad when I was about ten — and I found it singularly boring. But, in Hiaasen’s hands, this story is nothing of the sort.
Double Whammy (Skink #1) by Carl Hiaasen (1987) 452 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
A funny murder mystery starring Florida’s feral, one-eyed ex-Governor
The tale Hiaasen tells involves a truly colorful cast:
- Skink, of course;
- a “musclebound black state trooper” who is Skink’s guardian and friend;
- a Florida private eye and ace photographer named R. J. Decker who lives in a trailer and lusts after his own ex-wife;
- an ultra-wealthy sugarcane tycoon with a passion for largemouth bass;
- the tycoon’s gorgeous and ethically challenged sister;
- a Latino Miami police detective who’s Decker’s friend;
- the star of a wildly popular TV show about bass fishing on the Christian Outdoor Network; and
- a passel of rednecks, witless miscreants, and other misfits.
The tycoon hires Decker to investigate the TV star, whom he is convinced has been winning all the big bass-fishing tournaments by cheating. And then, of course, everything goes downhill from there. You don’t need to know any more to get a taste for this charming novel. Just note what Al García, the Miami cop, thinks about where Decker lives: “He hated trailer parks; trailer parks were the reason God invented tornadoes.”
Oh, and by the way. “The Double Whammy was the hottest lure on the pro bass circuit.” Now you know.
For further reading
I’ve reviewed eight other Carl Hiaasen novels. The two I’ve enjoyed the most are Lucky You (Carl Hiaasen on religious scam artists, Florida’s natural wonders, and the decline of local journalism) and Razor Girl (Reality TV, African rodents, and the roach patrol). And you can find all eight by typing the author’s name in the search box in the upper left-hand corner of the Home Page.
You might also be interested in My 10 favorite funny novels (plus dozens of runners-up) and Christopher Buckley writes satirical novels that are very, very funny.
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.