Monday 18 December 2017

Review: Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Little Brown, €16.99, Hardback

Carl Hiaasen is quite simply one of the funniest writers of the last 50 years. The Florida native, newspaper columnist and activist has been doling out a steady stream of riotously hilarious books set in his home state for years now and they never have become stale.

Operating out of a searing mix of seemingly limitless fury at the way Florida has been destroyed by ruthless developers and speculators and filtered through his rather unique sense of absurdity, Hiaasen has become a true master of creating characters so utterly venal, morally corrupt and, invariably, astonishingly stupid that each of his books is a surreal roller coaster through a world that is great to read about but would surely be hideous to live in.

The latest comically grotesque character to appear is Bang Abbot, a ruthless paparazzo whose greatest regret was missing Michael Jackson's death scene.

A formerly respected press photographer, he won the Pulitzer with a mocked-up photo before leaving mainstream journalism and snapping the stars.

And the one he most wants to snap is Cherry Pye, the singer who first became a star at the age of 15 on Jailbait Records.

Sadly for Cherry, she has absolutely no talent whatsoever and as her career continues to nosedive, she has taken to hard drugs and dangerous sex with remarkable enthusiasm.

To counter this worrying streak, her paedophile manager and pushy mother (a truly hideous character that seems like Dina Lohan and Lynne Spears combined) have hired a lookalike actress to appear in public while the real deal is too baked to fulfil her duties.

But along the way, Abbot's plans to get the ideal pic of Cherry Pye go hideously and very Hiaasenesquely (if you know what I mean) wrong, involving kidnap, attempted extortion and the return of Chemo, the seven-foot albino with a violent streak and a weed whacker for an arm.

And, thankfully, we also see the return of Skink, the former Florida governor who has gone ever so slightly mad, living in the boonies and surviving on roadkill.

Hiaasen ties all these strands together with his customary ease, yet it is hard to escape the impression that we've all been here before.

The difference with Hiaasen, however, is that even if you feel that you have indeed been here before, what previously happened is so bloody good in the first place that there's no real sense of disappointment.

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