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Basket Case Hardcover – January 2, 2002

4 out of 5 stars 269 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Take one dead rock & roll star, his Courtney Love-type widow, the mysterious deaths of his former bandmates, and the lost tracks of a comeback album. Stir in Jack Tagger, a middle-aged investigative reporter obsessed with death since his banishment to the obit desk; a fetching young editor with a yen for our hero; and a boss looking for a reason to fire him. Put them in the hands of a master like Carl Hiaasen, who adds his trademark flourishes (who else would use a frozen lizard as a weapon?) to a creaky plot like this one, and the result is a winner. Florida is full of caper writers with journalistic credentials, and plenty of them have a deft hand with quirky characters, but no one in the genre is better than Hiaasen. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Hiassen gets back to his roots with this (almost) straight-ahead mystery, but doesn't skimp on the funny stuff as he follows the adventures of Jack Tagger, down-on-his-luck journalist relegated to the obit beat at a smalltown Florida daily. While researching a death notice, Jack stumbles by accident upon an actual news story: former rocker Jimmy Stoma has drowned while diving in the Bahamas, and his widow, wannabe star Cleo Rio, can't convince Jack that his death was accidental. The mystery offers Jack a way out of his job-related death fixation ("It's an occupational hazard for obituary writers memorizing the ages at which famous people have expired, and compulsively employing such trivia to track the arc of one's own life") and toward his increasingly lusty feelings for Emma, his 27-year-old editor (" `Bring whipped cream,' I tell her, `and an English saddle' "). But when things turn violent and Jack suddenly has to defend himself with a giant frozen lizard, he enlists the help of his sportswriter friend Juan Rodriguez and teenage club scene veteran Carla Candilla to try to find out why someone is killing off has-been sleaze rockers. A hilarious sendup of exotic Floridian fauna in the newspaper business, the novel offers all the same treats Hiassen's fans have come to crave. What makes this book different is its first-person, present-tense narrative style. Unlike previous capers, which were narrated in the omniscient third person, this book settles squarely in the mystery genre from whence Hiaasen's fame (Double Whammy; Tourist Season, etc.) initially sprang. Despite the absence of perennial Hiaasen favorite Skink, this should make an easy job for Knopf's sales force even easier. (Jan. 9)Forecast: A 22-city author tour, a drive-time radio tour and national print and television advertising are all in the works for Basket Case. With first serial going to Rolling Stone and a 300,000-copy first printing, this looks like another bestselling sure bet for the Florida funnyman.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (January 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411076
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives with his incredibly tolerant family and numerous personal demons.

A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the paper's weekly magazine and later its prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses. He has outlasted almost all of them, and his column still appears on most Sundays in The Herald's opinion-and-editorial section. It may be viewed online at www.miamiherald.com or in the actual printed edition of the newspaper, which, miraculously, is still being published.

For his journalism and commentary, Hiaasen has received numerous state and national honors, including the Damon Runyon Award from the Denver Press Club. His work has also appeared in many well-known magazines, including Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Time, Life, Esquire and, most improbably, Gourmet.

In the early 1980s, Hiaasen began writing novels with his good friend and distinguished journalist, the late William D. Montalbano. Together they produced three mystery thrillers -- Powder Burn, Trap Line and Double Whammy -- which borrowed heavily from their own reporting experiences.

Tourist Season, published in 1986, was Hiaasen's first solo novel. GQ magazine called it "one of the 10 best destination reads of all time," although it failed to frighten a single tourist away from Florida, as Hiaasen had hoped it might. His next effort, Double Whammy, was the first (and possibly the only) novel about sex, murder and corruption on the professional bass-fishing circuit.

Since then, Hiaasen has published nine others -- Skin Tight, Native Tongue, Strip Tease, Stormy Weather, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Basket Case, Skinny Dip, The Downhill Lie and Nature Girl. Hiaasen made his children's book debut with Hoot (2002), which was awarded a Newbery Honor and spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller lists. For young readers he went on to write the bestselling Flush (2005) and, most recently Scat (January 2009). The film version of Hoot was released in 2006, directed by Wil Shriner and produced by Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall. ("Hoot" is now available on DVD).

Hiaasen is also responsible for Team Rodent (1998), a wry but unsparing rant against the Disney empire and its creeping grip on the American entertainment culture. In 2008, Hiaasen came back to nonfiction with The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport. The book chronicles his harrowing and ill-advised reacquaintance with golf after a peaceful, 32-year absence.

Together, Hiaasen's novels have been published in 34 languages, which is 33 more than he is able to read or write. Still, he has reason to believe that all the foreign translations are brilliantly faithful to the original work. The London Observer has called him "America's finest satirical novelist," while Janet Maslin of the New York Times has compared him to Preston Sturges, Woody Allen and S.J. Perelman. Hiaasen re-reads those particular reviews no more than eight or nine times a day.

To prove that he doesn't just make up all the sick stuff in his fiction, Hiaasen has also published two collections of his newspaper columns, Kick A** and Paradise Screwed, both courageously edited by Diane Stevenson and faithfully kept in print by the University Press of Florida.

One of Hiaasen's previous novels, Strip Tease, became a major motion-picture in 1996 starring Demi Moore, and directed by Andrew Bergman. Despite what some critics said, Hiaasen continues to insist that the scene featuring Burt Reynolds slathered from his neck to his toes with Vaseline is one of the high points in modern American cinema.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have read Carl Hiaasen novels for over 10 years and do because I love the off-the-wall humor he brings to his novels. Previous efforts have reflected interesting uses of weed-wackers (in Skin Tight) and "The Club" (in Stormy Weather), not to mention the periodic exploits of a former Florida governor turned road kill conniseur (Skink). He is a terrific storyteller who is passionate about the Florida environment as all of his previous novels had some type of "Save the Everglades" bent to them.
However, Hiaasen has taken a different turn with "Basket Case". First of all, this is his first novel written in the first person as he assumes the voice of Jack Tagger, former hotshot investigative newspaper reporter who has committed career suicide by publicly humiliating his boss and has been relegated to writing obituaries. Tagger is obsessed with the ages of people when they die and judges his life based on the famous people who died at his current age, which drives the people who care for him crazy. Tagger gets the chance to investigate the death of Jimmy Stoma, a washed-up rock star who was attempting to make a comeback at the time of his demise. You get to meet his wacky widow as well as several folks who help him in his quest. Hiaasen handles the limitations of the first person narrative pretty well, primarily through crisp use of dialog. It's a nice first effort for this style, although he can open himself more by staying in the third person as he has done previously.
I also credit Hiaasen for staying away from the environmental issues in this novel. I have stated in previous reviews of the recent Hiaasen novels that this subplot, present in all his novels in some form, was getting old, a sentiment agreed with by many other faithful readers.
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By A Customer on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Like many Nelson DeMille novels, Carl Hiaasen writes his "Basket Case" from the first person viewpoint. And like many of DeMille's protagonists, obit writer Jack Tagger tells us the story with a smart-assed dialogue.
Dead is James Bradley Stomarti, also know as, Jimmy Stoma. You know. The Jimmy Stoma, lead singer in his band, Jimmy and the Slut Puppies. The Slut Puppies were famous for the hit single "Basket Case" from the "Floating Hospice" album. That Jimmy Stoma. Anyway, to bring you up to date, he died.
It seems that Jimmy was a regular rocker too. Like many of his peers he was into alcohol, drugs, and had a rap sheet longer than his Fender guitar. He'd been arrested on a regular basis for such things as; indecent exposure, (he was caught wearing a rubber Pat Robinson mask and a day-glow condom), he crashed his SeaDoo in to the SS Norway, gets popped for whizzing on Englebert Humperdink's limo, got busted for stealing a bundt cake, you name it. All in all, this makes for a very interesting and "obit worthy" character. According to Jack Tagger, anyway.
Jimmy's death may not have been an accident, and so the mystery begins. Jack, the obit writer, has his suspicions. While Jack's editor, Emma, has the "hots" for Jack. This is where the sexual tension weaves its way into the storyline.
I mention Emma because Carl Hiaasen is a master of great dialogue and great characterization. Taggar describes Emma: "Emma has the bearing of an exotic falcon." Those eight words told me everything that I needed to know about Emma.
This one is five stars and highly recommended. I know you will enjoy "Basket Case" as much as I did. Cammy Diaz, lawyer.
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Format: Hardcover
Once I picked up this book (after buying it the day it came out) I could not put it down. The plot is typical Hiaasen -fast paced, lots of twists, plenty of shady (and funny) characters. But the book is actually different than previous Hiaasen books in two respects: First, it is written from a first person, narrative, perspective, unlike all of his previous 8 novels. Secondly, it is a little more serious, and a little less twisted, than previous books. It has a more realistic feel (with the exception of a hilarious scene involving a frozen lizard); there aren't any dead animals hanging off characters arms (Double Whammy, Lucky You); or weed whackers (Skin Tight).
There are lots of rock-n-roll references which I found entertaing, and the main character-obituary writer Jack Tagger-is a likable, flawed individual, that is easy to root for. Overall, I'd definetly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Carl Hiaasen turns his sharp eye on bottom-line journalism in this first-person novel of a former hot-shot reporter brought low by his own big, truth-telling mouth. When his medium-sized South Florida daily is bought out by a news-slashing, profit raking chain, Jack Tagger's ire, expressed at a stock holder's meeting, earns him a permanent spot on the obituary desk.
But I get ahead of myself. Hiaasen introduces his murder subject on the very first page - James Stomarti - aka Jimmy Stoma of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies, dead in a diving accident at age 39, seven years younger than Tagger. "It's an occupational hazard for obituary writers - memorizing the ages at which famous people have expired, and compulsively employing such trivia to track the arc of one's own life."
Seeing a winding path to the front page, Tagger stealthily begins to probe, interviewing Stoma's young, ambitious widow, a singer cruising the latest trend and looking for her second hit, Jimmy's sister, an internet stripper, and the surviving Slut Puppies. But when the Slut Puppies begin to die and Jimmy's sister vanishes, even his slime-ball publisher and fretful young editor can't derail Tagger's investigation.
Though more of a straight mystery than previous blackly madcap outings ("Sick Puppy," "Strip Tease") and not all that mysterious, "Basket Case," fueled by a highly likeable narrator, includes a few hilariously zany touches like assault by frozen lizard, and features a romance worthy of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Morosely sardonic and self-deprecating and obsessed with death, Jack Tagger infuses the story with humor while working his way towards a particularly satisfying revenge.
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