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Pest Control: A Novel Hardcover – December, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Fired from his job with a pest control company in Queens, New York, Bob Dillon starts his own business using his environmentally friendly technique: hybrid killer insects that eat cockroaches. Meanwhile, Marcel, a broker who contracts for assassins, is looking for a reliable newcomer to complete a million-dollar hit. He advertises and Bob responds, neither understanding the nature of the other's "exterminating" business. Very shortly thereafter, ten of the most dangerous hitpersons in the world descend on Queens, which is pretty dangerous itself and more than up to the challenge. Broadly satiric, extremely funny, and tailor-made for film (rights have already been sold to Warner Brothers), this is not exactly demanding reading, but it is fun and likely to be popular. A reasonable purchase for most public libraries.?Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, Va.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A sweetly comic thriller that finally answers the age-old question: What if a sad-sack New York exterminator got his antennae crossed with the professionals who wipe out Homo sapiens? At his wit's (and checkbook's) end after walking off his job killing bugs with lethal cocktails, Bob Dillon schemes at his own unique approach to extermination: breeding predatory strains of insects who'll feast on termites and roaches without developing chemical-resistant new strains of pests or loading the planet with hazardous toxins. It's a plan with all the makings of an American success story, but it spins out of control when Bob's ad falls into the hands of a middleman who brokers assassinations and thinks Bob's sobriquet of ``the Exterminator'' is a veiled reference to his status as a hit man. Getting a faint whiff of the trouble in his future, Bob begs off the lucrative job he's offered. But when the victim is accidentally killed anyway, the middleman, assuming Bob's managed the job with unusual finesse, duly sends him his fee. So far, everything's as innocuous as the endless stream of double-entendres about extermination--except that (1) the UPS package with all that lovely money gets held up en route to Bob; (2) his wife and daughter, impatient with his uncompromisingly idealistic approach to pest control, walk out on him; and (3) the brother and murderer of a Bolivian druglord who wants to cover up his own crime screams that it was the work of the Exterminator and offers a $10 million bounty to whoever kills Bob--attracting all the top exterminators in the field. There's the subtle Chinese knife expert, the glamorous Frenchwoman, the parvenu Cowboy, the transvestite dwarf, and the melancholy, suicidal top man, whose unlikely friendship with his prospective target is the high point of this generally predictable tale. A first novel that's not sharply enough written to offer serious competition to Florida farceurs Hiaasen and Shames, but consistently sunny and good-humored. (Film rights to Warner Brothers) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books (T); 1st edition (December 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380973480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380973484
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,308,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Fitzhugh was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. He has also lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles. He writes satiric crime novels, the occasional comic mystery, and for five years, wrote, produced and hosted "Fitzhugh's All Hand Mixed Vinyl" for the Deep Tracks channel of Sirius-XM Satellite Radio.

Two of his novels, Pest Control and Cross Dressing have been in development at Warner Brothers and Universal Studios respectively for nearly a decade. Imagine how good they'll be when they're done. Cross Dressing was nominated for the Barry Award as well as the Salt Lake County Library System's Reader's Choice Award and it won the 2002 Best Fiction award from the Mississippi Library Association.

Pest Control was one of Amazon's Top 50 Mysteries in 1997.

The Organ Grinders, which the Washington Post Book Review called, 'A laugh out loud read [and] an awe-inspiring feat' is a tender exploration of the feasibility and genetic implications of human gonad transplants, among other things. As Booklist pointed out, 'It's not easy walking the tightrope between medical thrillers a la Crichton and absurdist black comedy in the Hiaasen mold, but Fitzhugh manages it smoothly.'

One of Bill's proudest moments was when the brilliant and hysterically funny Molly Ivins wrote in one of her columns, 'Bill Fitzhugh is a seriously funny guy...The Organ Grinders is hilarious, but it can also make you gasp with horror... and the humor is completely off-the-wall.'

Reviewing his award winning novel, Fender Benders, The New York Times said, 'Fitzhugh is a strange and deadly amalgam of screenwriter and comic novelist and his facility and wit, and his taste for the perverse, put him in a league with Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.' Fender Benders won The Lefty Award for best humorous novel of 2001. Kinky Friedman himself said Fender Benders is 'Wickedly, irredeemable funny [and] wise beyond words and music. Fitzhugh has nailed the truest depiction of Nashville since Hank went to Jesus."

Fitzhugh's fifth novel was the political satire, Heart Seizure. Former Texas governor Ann Richards said 'Fitzhugh can spin a story and skewer a politician better than just about anyone I know.' As if that wasn't enough, the good folks at the Sunday Oklahoman called it, 'A wickedly outrageous satire that takes on the federal government, the media, and today's health care system with precise and scathing wit.'

Radio Activity, the first of a comic mystery series featuring classic rock deejay Rick Shannon, was published in April 2004. Jill Conner Browne, the Boss Sweet Potato Queen herownself said, 'Bill Fitzhugh is the only mystery writer I ever really loved.'

The second novel in this series, Highway 61 Resurfaced, was published in April 2005. Unable to control himself after reading it, Carl Hiaasen said, 'Bill Fitzhugh is a deeply disturbed individual who uses his warped talents to write very funny novels, the latest being Highway 61 Resurfaced. You will seriously dig this book if you like classic rock, Southern blues, clever mysteries and cats with loathsome sinus infections.'

The Exterminators, the long-awaited sequel to Pest Control was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2012, along with a reissue of Pest Control. Carl Hiaasen calls it "Wild and clever fun."

Fitzhugh, whose books have been translated into German, Japanese, and Italian, Spanish, and Romanian lives in Los Angeles with his wife, various animals, and his record collection.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh is a truly wonderful novel. Fitzhugh takes a classic mystery story set in New York and adds a bunch of weird charachters and plot twists. The book is about an exterminator and his family. The exterminator is appalled by the use of pesticides to kill bugs and is creating his own all natural method using his genetically engineered assasin bugs. He quits his job and sees an ad in the paper offering 50,000 bucks for an extermination job. He sends in a resume and is given the job, unaware that his victim is to be a swiss millionaire. The guy dies anyway, and asassins around the world flock to NY to eliminate their new competitor. Klaus, a soft-hearted crack asassin, befriends him, and the rest of the story is a hilarious chase through the big apple. The book is often found under mystery in bookstores, but it is really a comedy. This book is definetly a read for anyone with a sense of humor!
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"Pest Control" is a hard book to describe. I have to admit there are some truly hilarious scenes and situations in the book, but there are times when Fitzhugh bogs it down with his relentless insistence on letting us know how Bob feels about his work, his wife, and his child. Bob comes across as a selfish, inane, inept, and generally ridiculous man. Each time one of his cross-bred non-pesticide attempts fail, he seems dumber and dumber. But, he's your hero, and you have to wish him well. The assorted supporting characters are wonderful, particularly the suicidal #1 hitman, who befriends Bob; the clothes-conscious Jean, assistant to Marcel, the hit negotiator; and some of the other assassins, particularly the French beauty who has a hilarious moment when looking for gourmet chocolates in a quick-stop place. Another interesting moment occurs when the transvestite dwarf killer comes on to an overweight, underloved woman, who wants to make out while eating peanuts. This is a rather "touching" and poignant moment, almost out of place in this frantically paced novel. Give Fitzhugh credit, though--it's vastly entertaining, and you can forgive it's obvious flaws because it does make you laugh.
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If Robert Ludlum and Douglas Adams had wild homosexual monkey love (not that there's anything wrong with that) with each other before their individual demises, their bastard love child would have been Bill Fitzhugh.

More succinctly, Fitzhugh's novel Pest Control takes the best thriller elements of Ludlum's memory-addled spies and Adam's irreverent humo(u)r and sensibilities and hybrids them (to verb a noun) like so many assassin bugs in the Bugarariums of protagonist Bob Dillon.

In a world where the top 5 assassins know their individual ranks, and where there are still "exterminations" that need doing, hapless Dillon answers a classified ad in a drunken stupor. An ad to kill a man.

When that man dies, Bob's to blame, and everyone from a transvestite dwarf to the CIA gunning for him.

It's a fast page-turner, with at least one chuckle, smile or groaner on every page. Fortunately, the groaners are outnumbered by the smiles and chuckles at least 3-to-1.

Characters are all unique, in some cases (ok, all cases) bizarrely so, as in the case of Bob's daughter's best friend's mother, who has a circus fetish involving dwarfs, bags of peanuts, and... well, really, isn't that enough?

You have to come into this book with a sense of humor. Perhaps even an advanced sense of humor. Curmudgeons will flee this book faster than an cockroach from a flashlight.
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By MZ on January 30, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lo and behold, there is something fun about bugs. Fitzhugh makes it so. The writing style is very likeable, giving this mystery-ish novel a light but slightly heart-stirring feel. The characters are well done, in a comical style, and the realistic touches add a little weight to the story.

My only criticism of this book is that I thought it would be laugh-out-loud funny. It IS humorous in the makes-you-smile-on-occasion sort of way, but I don't think I once laughed out loud. There are plenty of things about this book that are unplausible, as well, but you'll be fine with that as long as you dive in knowing that.

An entertaining first novel. Would probably read the second one if I happened upon it, but would not go out of my way to look for it.
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I can never get enough of Carl Hiaasen. Twenty years ago, it was Donald Westlake (Dancing Aztecs, for instance), and so I'm constantly on the lookout for writers capable of creating that elusive hybrid of humor and thriller. Ben Elton falls into this category, although sometimes his books tend to run on a bit. Danny King fills a particular niche. So, all that being said, I cannot believe it's taken me this long to discover Bill Fitzhugh. Although the reader comes away from this book with far more knowledge about entomology that they'd bargained for, the story is fast, the characters believable, and the humor sharp. Can't wait to read more.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
Bob Dillon is a great character and you just can't help but empathize with him. He's like a cross between Homer Simpson and Mister Magoo. On the Homer Simpson side, you have a man who tries and tries to be a good husband and father, but things just never seem to go his way. On the Mister Magoo side, he is a man who sort of blunders along, without ever realizing that there are high-priced hit men trying to kill him, and government agencies trying to hire him.

When someone tries to hire Bob as an assassin, having completely misunderstood his exterminator-for-hire flyers, Bob is never quite able to convince them that he only kills bugs. Then the man Bob was hired to kill goes and drives his car off a mountain road, making it look like Bob has completed the hit. In another scene, Bob is on the verge of proving that his assassin bugs really work, and someone blows up the building in an attempt to kill him, but only succeeds in destroying the evidence of Bob's success. Through a whole series of similar Three's Company-ish scenarios, Bob's name ends up at the top of a list of the best assassins in the world.

"Pest Control" is just one hilarious misunderstanding after another, and Bill Fitzhugh plays it out perfectly. He is funny and witty and has a real knack for metaphors and similes. In one scene, Bob's wife is reading some of the old love letters he wrote while they were dating. He is describing one of his favorite bugs when he says, "it's dark metallic blue and dangerous, like your eyes." I think Fitzhugh is a great writer and I'm a little surprised that I've never heard of him. I'll be on the lookout for his name from now on.

"Pest Control" is the second Colby Elliott narration that I've heard, and I like him more all the time.
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