Thursday, 29 August 2013

Star Island - Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen books are an acquired taste, but if you have a bit of a twisted sense of humour you will find them original and laugh out loud funny. Star Island is no exception and is a tale of good and evil set in the steamy, tropical heat of Miami and the Florida Keys. Low life paparazzi Claude 'Bang' Abbott has few work ethics, no morals and a realistic view of his attractiveness to the female race.  He spends his life taking pictures of celebrities in compromising situations and, as he views any star as just a way to make a quick buck, no one is more surprised than him when he becomes dangerously obsessed with a wild young starlet called Cherry Pye, who has more than a few unhealthy habits that are spiralling out of control. And after all, how often does a guy like Bang get his first taste of the mile high club in a private jet with said hot, blonde pop singer?

But the course of true obsession is not destined to run smoothly for poor Bang, as unbeknownst to him the wayward Cherry Pye has a body double, an unknown actress called Ann DaLusia, who takes her place at public engagements when Cherry's wild lifestyle puts her out of action.  Bang makes one of the worst mistakes of his life when he kidnaps the wrong Cherry Pye and finds that he has no famous starlet and one very unamused Ann DaLusia on his hands, setting off a chain of unfortunate events that leads to the loss of his prized cameras and blackberry, damage to several of his body parts and  his dreams and aspirations plunging into a terminally downward spiral.

For Ann DaLusia proves to be not your average kidnap victim, giving Bang more than a run for his money.  Also he is blissfully unaware that after a crash on a dark, lonely road in the Keys, that Ann has acquired a most unusual knight in shining armour, who will stop at nothing to rescue her and keep her safe, even taking to the ocean waves and braving the crowded streets of Miami, which he hates, on her behalf.

Star Island is a very funny book, set in the murky underbelly of Florida society and the tawdry celebrity scene.  Hiaasen has a knack for making his character's outrageous behaviour seem normal, and getting you to believe that it is an everyday occurrence to meet someone with a weed strimmer for an arm prosthesis  or an ex state governor living in a camp in the swamps and living off road kill.  It is a cleverly wrought story of plots, manipulation and counter-plots, where many of the characters are more than happy to lie, cheat and even kill to further their own plans.  But somehow right manages to triumph over evil and many of the characters in Star Island end up finding out the hard way that crime does not pay and that karma always catches up with you in the end.

Star Island brings back some of Carl Hiaasen's most memorable characters such as Skink, aka Clint Tyree, the former Governor of Florida who takes Ann DaLusia under his wing and Chemo, former bent mortgage adviser and prison inmate turned celebrity bodyguard who wields his strimmer prosthesis to great effect.

The great thing about Hiaasen's characters and plots is that they are so implausibly over the top that they become believable and you very quickly fall into his wacky world of tarnished celebrities, corrupt politicians and petty criminals. Hiaasen's universe is a twisted but seductive place where the best laid plans and the highest of intentions are always going astray.  And I promise that you will never look at a sea urchin in the same way again!

To go with Star Island's tropical theme, I suggest that you mix yourself a pitcher of frozen margaritas and chuck some jumbo prawns on the barbie, as this is a great book to chuckle through as you are sunning yourself on a lounger by the pool.

As I now have a new rating system, I award Star island 4 sandwiches out of five for being such a ridiculously funny, off the wall read.

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