Carl Hiaasen sure knows how to lead off a story, and he proves it all over again in a savage takedown of Donald Trump.
“On the night of January twenty-third, unseasonably warm,” he writes, “a woman named Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons went missing during a charity gala in the exclusive island town of Palm Beach, Florida. Kiki Pew was seventy-two years old and, like most of her friends, twice widowed and wealthy beyond a need for calculation. With a check for fifty thousand dollars she had purchased a table at the annual White Ibis Ball. The event was the marquee fundraiser for the Gold Coast chapter of the IBS Wellness Foundation, a group globally committed to defeating Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Mrs. Fitzsimmons had no personal experience with intestinal mayhem but she loved a good party.”
When it soon becomes clear that an intoxicated Kiki Pew was consumed whole at that party by a nineteen-foot Burmese python, we should not be surprised. Because this is, after all, Carl Hiaasen’s Florida. And so begins Squeeze Me, the bard’s literary evisceration of Florida’s most famous mail-in voter, the President of the United States. Make no mistake about it: this novel is Carl Hiaasen’s savage takedown of Donald Trump.
Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen (2020) 314 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
So, here are just some of the trademark Hiaasen characters who populate this brutal treatment of life at Mar-a-Lago (which Hiaasen translates as Casa Bellicosa):
- the President and his randy First Lady, who go by their Secret Service codenames of Mastodon (him: “he loves it”) and Mockingbird (her)
- a Middle Eastern Secret Service agent named Ahmet Yousseff—Mockingbird’s love interest—who has been forced to change his name to Keith Josephson to hide his ethnicity from the President
- a gaggle of Botoxed, alcoholic, millionaire widows called the POTUS Pussies (better known for obvious reasons as the “Potussies”) who contribute millions to Mastodon’s defense in his second impeachment trial
- a nineteen-foot Burmese python who devours Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons but receives no thanks for the impressive effort
- a couple of bungling career criminals who would have made Elmore Leonard proud
- a malfunctioning Presidential tanning bed
- and our old friend Skink—who is at least my old friend from reading lots of Hiaasen—the feral, one-eyed, six-and-a-half-foot ex-Governor of Florida who lives on roadkill in the Everglades and subjects environmental evil-doers to grisly poetic justice.
Three mature adult humans live among the sycophants
Happily, there are also three recognizably normal adult humans in the cast of characters.
- Angela (Angie) Anderson is a wild-animal wrangler who will harm wildlife only under the most extreme circumstances.
- Jerry Crosby is Palm Beach’s police chief, a happily married veteran officer who spends his days cleaning up the messes of the pampered and entitled creeps who inhabit the mansions of his town.
- And Jacob Ryskamp, a long-suffering supervisory Secret Service agent who is forced to grit his teeth over the havoc that reigns endlessly within a hundred yards of Mastodon.
This novel will quickly disabuse you of any fantasy that Carl Hiaasen is ready to give Donald Trump any slack. The characters in Squeeze Me variously refer to him as “a soulless imbecile” and worse.
Writing about this book for the New York Times (September 2, 2020), Janet Maslin headlined her review “A Python Ate the President’s Neighbor? Only in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida.” She also noted “If you are wearing a MAGA anything, you won’t like this book.”
For further reading
Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read most of his nineteen adult novels and several of those he wrote for young adults. My reviews of the adult novels on this site include:
- Razor Girl (Reality TV, African rodents, the roach patrol)
- Bad Monkey (A severed arm, a detective on the roach patrol, and a bad monkey)
- Star Island (Carl Hiaasen skewers celebrities)
- Basket Case (Carl Hiaasen skewers newspaper publishers and rock musicians)
- Lucky You (Carl Hiaasen on religious scam artists, Florida’s natural wonders, and the decline of local journalism)
- Double Whammy – Skink #1 (Carl Hiaasen introduces Florida’s feral one-eyed ex-Governor)
You might also be interested in:
- My 10 favorite funny novels (plus dozens of runners-up)
- Christopher Buckley writes satirical novels that are very, very funny
- The top 5 books about Donald Trump and his impact on American democracy
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.