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Q + A with Carl Hiaasen

Crime-savant and satirical novelist Carl Hiassen comes to Danville's Rakestraw Books August 13th


Published:

Alexandra Compain Tissier

California has its share of weird crime and political graft—but Florida has long been the state with the craziest corruption tales. No one skewers the Sunshine State better than Carl Hiaasen, a Miami Herald columnist and the best-selling author of 15 satirical crime novels. Hiaasen will visit Danville on August 13 for a book signing and conversation with Diablo’s Peter Crooks.

Tickets are $35 per adult, $40 per couple and proceeds benefit East Bay teen eco-program, Earth Team. The event begins at 7 p.m., call Rakestraw Books at (925) 837-7337 for more information.

Q: How often do you use real news stories to flesh out your characters?

A: In Strip Tease, I wanted the ex-husband to be the worst deadbeat imaginable. I had clipped a story about a man who was staking out rest homes to steal top-of-the-line wheelchairs and stripping them for parts. So I made the ex-husband a wheelchair thief. Of course, people read the book and said, “That’s sick! No one would actually do that.” I had to keep showing the newspaper clipping and say, “Not only would they do it, they did it.”

Q: In your new novel, Star Island, you bring back the weed wacker–wielding psychopath Chemo (from 1989’s Skin Tight), one of your
signature villains.

A: Chemo received 17 years in prison at the end of Skin Tight, so as I was writing Star Island, I realized he’d just be getting out. I decided he should spend some time selling subprime loans—because until recently, you didn’t need any certification to sell subprime loans in Florida. Which meant that hundreds of convicted felons, and a couple of murderers, were selling them.

Q: Your books for younger readers are huge bestsellers. What response have you gotten from kids?

A: I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve received thousands of letters from kids. Kids write with a certain passion, they are witty, and they don’t mind telling you if they don’t like something. I'm thrilled to hear about their love of nature and wild things, and their interest in taking care of the part of the world that has not yet been trampled. 

Q: You cowrote songs with the late Warren Zevon, and the Byrds' Roger McGuinn showed up at one of your book signings, after you named the dog in Sick Puppy after him. Are there other rock star fans?

A: I did get to know Jerry Garcia before he passed away. And a few years ago, the Rolling Stones were coming to South Florida, and their management contacted me to say that Ron Wood and Keith Richards wanted to meet me. So I took my family to the show and was taken backstage to meet Keith and Woody in the snooker lounge that is set up behind the stage at every Stones concert. I still can’t quite get my head around the idea that after I’m done with a new book, Keith Richards will be sitting in his hotel room reading it. 

Where to begin: Hiaasen’s greatest hits

Double Whammy
1987

Hiaasen's second novel is the greatest (or, the only?) satirical thriller about the world of high-stakes competitive bass fishing.

Hoot
2002

This mystery about a boy's efforts to rescue endangered owls from a pancake house construction site received the Newbery Honor for children’s fiction.

The Downhill Lie
2007

Hiaasen's most personal tome chronicles his struggles with golf, a game he had abandoned after his father passed away.

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