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Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen Hardcover – December 31, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A public service to his many fans, this compendium of Miami Herald columns by best-selling novelist Carl Hiaasen (Lucky You, 1997, etc.) reveals an angry, alert civic muckraker in the pugilistic vein of Mencken or Royko. Though best known for his ribald crime fiction, with its meticulous universe of South Florida idiocy and venal conspiracy, Hiaasen cut his teeth as an investigative reporter, and this spirit is strong in both his chosen subjects and his wry attention to unforgiving evidentiary detail. As editor Stevenson notes, the collections thrust, which she constructed by sifting through Hiaasens 1300-plus columns, was to present his advocacy of realistic growth and decent government in Florida. Along the way Hiaasen stops to gut innumerable big fishcrooked politicians, rogue cops, insensate tourists, swollen developerswithin a rough chronology reaching back to the cocaine-crazed Reagan '80s. Although Hiaasen is a truly funny writer, a stern moral compass lies beneath his slapstick. His quixotic outrage regarding the despoliation of his home state (cf. the columnist/terrorist of his Tourist Season, 1986) is as unforgiving as an Uzi, as authentic as a Waffle House breakfast. Hiaasens zestful attacks on Miamis many embarrassing or indicted leaders end up addressing the threats posed, for instance, by the crash overpopulation of Florida, epitomized by the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Andrew upon shoddy developments, a dire issue that pro-business boosters (e.g., The Mouse) labor to minimize. But even the loopier pieces (tame dachshund-eating alligators, Geraldo Riveras faked drug raids) are informed by Hiaasens unforgiving focus upon the social rot beneath the zany facade. Such columns, like his fiction, reveal Hiaasen as a crystalline, pitiless seer of human weakness in much the same vein as his Floridian forbears, Charles Willeford and Harry Crews. Deeply satisfying, both for what it reveals of the serious priorities of a supposedly light novelist and for the outrageous epic of Florida profiteering and entropy within. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


...this collection of lively and well-reported pieces... illuminated by all the wit and keen descriptive powers of his fiction. --

Carl Hiaasen is one of America's finest novelists. -- Pete Hamill

Reminiscent of the snarky, opinionated newspaper articles of the great Mark Twain, Hiaasen's columns are finely crafted little gems. -- Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 471 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1st edition (December 31, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813017173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813017174
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,942 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 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on January 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The novels of Carl Hiaasen are darkly comic visions of the hell that greed and overdevelopment have created in much of south Florida. This book, a collection of his newspaper columns for the Miami Herald, reveals much about the origins of that vision. In these columns Hiaasen emerges as a fierce, intelligent and tireless critic of corrupt politicians, thoughtless overdevelopment, hypocracy and human stupidity generally. These columns, some about local Miami politics and crime, some about Florida and some about the state of America generally, all contain elements of clear thinking, bitter humor and genuine indignation. His choice of subjects shows his eye for irony and the columns can be read both for information and for his humorous take on the subject.
Like Molly Ivens, who can speak the truth and make us laugh about things that are probably worthy of tears, Hiaasen manages to ease the pain of much that he reveals in the columns by recasting it as comedy. He makes us laugh first, and then leaves us with troubled thoughts. Makes me wish he wrote for the Washington Post. The citizens of D.C. could use a good laugh at much that goes on. We just don't have a Carl Hiaasen here to do it justice.
Reading this book won't make one want to move to Miami, but it will make one want to read more Hiaasen. Always a pleasure.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on January 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Many of us enjoy CH's humorous novels, but will we non-Floridians enjoy reading his Miami Herald newspaper columns? What pleasure can we get from reading about the arcane politics and goings on in a city far distant from our own home?
Quite a bit actually. You see Miami seems to be a very strange place, and Mr. Hiaasen uses his formidable talent to poke fun at the poor city's innumerable peccadilloes. He considers Corruption in Politics to be one of the town's main industries, and gives us a lot of drug smuggling; indifference to the environment; tourist murders; locking up clowns; swimming in waters contaminated with fecal matter. Laughing at Miami's problems might even help us temporarily forget similar problems in our own hometown.
As they often say, truth is stranger than fiction. And often funnier, I might add. It's good Carl Hiaasen...and you really get your money's worth. It's no slim tome of essays; there are over 200 columns reprinted here giving us 450 pages of chuckles.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By BlueStar on May 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I know what you are thinking: I'm not a Florida resident. Why should I care about what some newspaper columnist wrote about a local scandal in the Miami Herald in 1987?
There's a lot more reasons for buying this book than you'd expect.
If you appreciate Hiaasen's "fiction," you'll love to read about the fountain of avarice and corruption from which it came.
If you are at all interested in the reality of politics and society in this country, this book will give you an eyeful.
And if you do happen to be a Florida citizen--or even a Florida visitor--you'll be well-served to get a synopsis of South Florida history as witnessed by Carl Hiaasen in the 15 years (and counting) that he's served as one of the Herald's most acerbic, witty, and controversial voices.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Brian Almquist on July 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There was a brief stage in my college career when I hoped to get into newspapers. Unfortunately, I'm a very slow writer. I would sweat bullets over remarkably simple stories, and my editorial prowess was equally dubious. It was at that time I discovered Carl Hiaasen and his remarkably subversive novel, TOURIST SEASON. His author's bio indicated that his newspaper setting was drawn from authentic experience -- he was a columnist for the Miami Herald.
Unfortunately, the web was just in its infancy, and access to Hiaasen's newspaper writing was apparently one of the few exclusive benefits of living in South Florida. KICK ASS turns out to be just the sort of collection that I had been craving for many years.
KICK ASS does not disappoint. It begins with a nifty introduction that provides a smattering of biographical information on Hiaasen, as well as a context for the subjects and tone of his columns. Hiaasen clearly resides in a longstanding tradition of muckraking American journalism, and I mean that in the best possible way.
This is no mere sampling of his work -- there are more than 200 columns here, organized by topic, and just about every one of them meets the mandate stated in the title of the collection. Hiaasen has a passion for the environment, consumer protection, crime control, and good government. His portrait of a Florida reeling after the flood of growth and development of the last three decades is even starker than the one in his novels. Speaking of the novels, it is also fun to see where he "lifts" some of his ideas for the things that happen in his books. The overamorous dolphin of NATIVE TONGUE appears in KICK ASS as well.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a lifelong resident of Florida (albeit a ninetten-year-old one), I have seen Florida at its best and worst. Hiiasen's columns represented in this book illustrate the "politics" and people of a great but confused state. If you live in Florida, have visited, or even have heard of it, this book will both amuse and depress you, as is the nature of the state. Everyone will identify with the outrage Hiiasen evokes over the disregard of the envirnment, the sham of politics, and the overall life in Miami, and indeed, all of Florida. This book will remind readers of what Marjorie Kinnan-Rawlings and Marjorie Douglass once experienced in Florida, and tells both the good and the bad of what has happened after a hundred years of exploitation If you want a non-stop laugh and a big dose of reality, read this collection - it's one of the best books in print right now.
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