Friends of the Florida shitweasel can rejoice that the lesser shitweasel has been sighted once more in the Florida Keys and offshore in the Bahamas. The weasels’ long time chronicler Carl Hiaasen has given us a ripping yarn full of medical malfeasance, police corruption, planning abuses, dismembered body parts, a cyclone, and blatant disregard of foodhandling regulations. Bad Monkey represents a minor key return to form for Hiaasen whose last couple of books seemed to presage a slow gentle decline after the glories of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.
My god, is it really 25 years since Carl gave us such vivid characters as the survivalist eco-warrior ex-Governor protecting the Everglades and the nightclub bouncer who replaced his amputated hand with a weed whacker. Hiaasen offered up jaw dropping characters and plots centred on the destruction of the natural environment. His outsider angels of vengeance fought against the forces of evil rampaging through the Everglades and visiting destruction along the Florida coastline. The vengeance effected against the shitweasels was usually inventively Gothic and bleakly comic at the same time.
Where once Hiaasen’s protagonists took on corrupt politicians, large scale property developers and theme park operators, the enemies in Bad Monkey’s parallel Florida and Bahamaian plots are simply low rent developers thoughtlessly looking to ruin the views and homesites of our fishing protagonists. One of them is a corrupt and viciously homicidal doctor, but he is a small scale villain by Hiaasen’s standards and a fair bit of quality time is spent admiring the sunset while sipping on rum. Early period Hiaasen plots were a little too manic for such measured enjoyments and the protagonists fed more on roadkill than fast food chain roach bait.
Bad Monkey spends half of its time over in the Bahamas, in part hunkered down during a cyclone, where our Floridian Quixote’s meet like minded Bahamians also opposed to wrong headed and environmentally insensitive development, as well as crass, racist American interlopers.
At one point a character offers a review of a Springsteen concert saying that, even without Clarence, its still a great show. That serves as a fine review for this book as well: even without the brio and verve of early Hiaasen, its still a great show. The other music references are usually good as well – a Peter Tosh t-shirt no less.
There is one wonderful example of the two cultures separated by a common language. “the hired (Bahamian) goon burst from the trailer swinging a cricket mallet …” Obviously Mr Hiaasen has here confused his cricket and his croquet.