Posted by: Gregg | August 22, 2006

Skinny Dip – Carl Hiaasen

Like everyone else, I have prejudices against certain writers, my reasons completely irrational and sometimes even unexplainable. For example, I’ve always hated Carl Hiaasen even though people have praised his writing. I can’t explain why, except that my boss at my previous job loved all things South Florida. (She constantly searched for pirated recordings of Jimmy Buffett performances over the internet.) This love included the books of Carl Hiaasen, which she’d read when she wasn’t micromanaging staff or being argumentative with patrons. She was easily the worst boss I ever had, and my dislike of her bled over to include her taste in music and novels.

So when someone even mentioned the name to me, I’d involuntarily shudder with revulsion and run the other direction. No rational reason for it, but there is was.

Hiaasen was featured on an episode of “60 Minutes” several months ago, and he seemed like a cool guy, someone to share a beer with. Since I’ve long since fled the place of my previous employment, I figured it was time to give Carl a shot. And I was glad I did, because Skinny Dip is a wonderful little read.

If you’ve ever read an Elmore Leonard book, you’ll realize the setup instantly: eccentric lowlifes armed with wickedly clever dialogue get involved with a caper of some sort where many plots intertwine; hilarity ensues. Same deal here. Hiassen is a former journalist and he knows the almost instinctual bizarreness of his fellow Floridians, and with a stunning ear for dialogue, his characters are just absurd enough to still be believable.

The plot revolves around a young wife thrown overboard a cruise ship by her husband on her second anniversary. She survives not only because of her background as a collegiate swimmer, but by coming across a floating bale of pot dropped by a Jamaican drug smuggler. She’s rescued by a retired investigator living off the Florida Keys and they plot to get revenge on her scheming husband, who works as an environmental scientist for the state who’s in the pocket of an industrialist millionaire who has a oft-naked bear of a man as a bodyguard who’s addicted to painkillers because of a bullet lodged underneath the crack of his ass and who feeds his addiction by disguising himself as an orderly in nursing homes, peeling the medication patches off of comatose patients.

Really, the plot’s not important – Hiaasen’s an excellent read, funny enough to get your inner curmudgeon smiling.


  1. I loved this book. I was first introduced to Hiaasen through a mystery book club, though, and I have to say that calling most of them ‘mysteries’ is a bit of a stretch, so that was a little disappointing for me. But his characters are amazingly well done. I’ve read several since (including one I’d actually call a mystery) and have enjoyed all of them. Though Skinny Dip is still probably my favorite.

  2. This is an author I’ll have to revisit again. Especially now since I’ve exorcised the bad boss mojo off him.

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