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VINE VOICEon February 27, 2001
I've been reading Carl Hiassen's work for years, having jumped in around the middle, with "Native Tongue," "Skin Tight" and "Striptease." I've more recently been working my way through the rest of his catalog, including "Stormy Weather" and "Double Whammy," with his two latest books in hardback waiting on my to-be-read shelf.
But years after the liner notes for a Jimmy Buffett song ("The Ballad of Skip Wiley and Skeet" off his "Barometer Soup" album) made me go look for this Hiassen's guy's works in a book store, I'm finally getting around to "Tourist Season," the first novel Hiassen wrote, featuring rogue newspaper columnist Skip Wiley.
It's said that you spend your entire life writing your first novel, as you inevitably put pretty much all the good stuff in that one. Whatever the state of your craft, it's where your ideas, your good bits, your passion all gets poured into. While I've enjoyed other Hiassen books more (notably "Native Tongue" and "Skin Tight"), this certainly seems to be true for "Tourist Season." While all of his books have an overt current of rage directed at developers, destructive big business and endemic corruption, he always makes sure to leaven that with humor, a little zaniness, and some sweetness. Not here.
Sure, there's some amusing bits, a lot of them, really, but Hiassen's subsequent work has never been this dark, his rage never so undiminished. While all of his books barrel towards their climax, this is the first one I've read in which it's hard to see how there could be a happy ending, where the bad guys aren't REALLY bad and where it doesn't all seem like cosmic justice on the last page. I won't spoil the ending, but by midway through the book, it's clear that with the heaping handfuls of moral ambiguity mixed in, it's hard to have anything better than a bittersweet ending.
In a nutshell, Miami newspaper columnist Skip Wiley has had enough. Enough of the influx of Yankees to Florida and the concomitant woes of greed, development and reckless destruction of the environment. Especially the latter. When Skip Wiley goes missing, and a new terrorist organization, the Nights of December, starts targeting the tourist industry in South Florida (starting by shoving a rubber alligator down a man's throat and then putting his dead body inside his luggage), Skip's editor calls a former reporter turned private investigator to track him down.
Hiassen almost certainly does not advocate terrorism, murder and kidnap, but the cause is clearly near and dear to him, and he argues the Nights' cause eloquently. That makes their extremism tragic, and the possible endings all troubling.
A solid novel, and one of Hiassen's best. While all of his novels will make you laugh, and keep you turning the pages, anxious to see what the next twist in the roller-coaster ride will be, "Tourist Season" will make you think, too.
Definitely recommended for any of his existent fans, as well as fans of Dave Barry or Elmore Leonard.
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on July 20, 2017
Great book, in the tradition that I've come to expect from this great author. Hiassen addresses sensitive environmental issues in a ways that grips even the interest of people who would otherwise turn a bind eye or a deaf ear. ...and it's all wrapped up in a fun filled, thrilling story!
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on September 29, 2017
Not his worst, but by no means his funniest. There was some effort made to make me feel sympathy for the homicidally insane, but it just would not take.
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on May 21, 2014
Brian Keyes, a former newspaper reporter is now working as a private eye, and he's been hired to prove the innocence of a suspect in the rather bizarre murder of the president of the Miami Chamber of Commerce. Keyes believes that his client is innocent, and discovers that the murder may be tied to the disappearance of a visiting Shriner. Then other tourists and snow birds begin disappearing. There is a local terrorist group, the Nights of December, aka "The Nachos" who are claiming responsibility and Keyes knows the leader of the group very well. Skip Wiley is a well loved newspaper columnist who is dismayed at the rate of development in Florida and is determined to drive all the people out so that Florida can return to it's natural state. There are alligator attacks, bombings, beauty queens and Shriners involved, and it was a fun read.
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on July 28, 2017
I always enjoy his books. Not one of his best but still worth the read. The bad guys were entertaining.
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on June 26, 2016
This story showed its age with references to 'current' celebrities (Michael Landon being one), and lifestyle (no cell phones). Some of this was amusing and transported me back to the 80's. But the story as a whole was only mildly engaging. What I did enjoy was the sarcastic humor that would appear just when I was getting bored. I took this with me on a sailing trip and the light reading was just enough, along with the rock of the waves, to put me to sleep every night.
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on April 22, 2015
I've become a devoted fan of Carl Hiassen. I'm generally more of a "great books" type (Faulkner, Tolstoy . . . pretentious list of stuff). But a good read is a good read. His prose is a lot better than some award winning books I've started and stopped reading recently. Sometimes disturbing and dark, sometimes hackneyed, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny . . . I've read 3 of Mr. Hiassen's books in succession, currently reading a 4th.
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on July 6, 2015
Just a little bit of a disappointment for this long-time Hiaasen fan. It was hard to get into. I kept reading only because it was Mr. H, and I thought any minute it would become a fun read. But at best it was only mildly and sporadically entertaining.

Nearly 400-page narrative too long for the somewhat strange, weak plot. Couldn't develop any interest for the characters. Can't recommend this one--particularly if you've read any of his other books, all of which are much better. Gave three stars instead of two only because it wasn't totally unlikeable.
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on August 30, 2016
Tourist Season is my first book by Hiaasen & I really enjoyed it. So full of surprises and strange turns, real suspense, and interesting characters, it made me want to read on in Hiaasen's trail. i wonder if a 19 y/o beauty queen would really get involved w/ a depressed 30-something private detective or is that just a typical male dream? Kinda vulgar. The thought of heroic motorcycle riding Shriners was fun.
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on March 27, 2017
Carl did this 30 yrs ago, so, of course it's not as fantastic a work as Skinny Dip for example.
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