Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DOUBLE WHAMMY by Carl Hiaasen

The Book: Carl Hiaasen, DOUBLE WHAMMY. Putnam, 1987 (first edition); very good book in good dust jacket. Dust jacket is price-clipped and has 1/4" tear in lower front corner of spine. Inscribed on half-title: "For Ellen -- Best Wishes! Carl Hiaasen."
First read: 1989
Owned since: 1995

I've met Carl Hiaasen twice: once when he signed this book, at a now-defunct mystery bookstore in Bethesda, MD, and years later, when he dropped in to sign books at The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles. At neither meeting did we have much of a conversation; I said I was a fan, he thanked me, he signed my books, that was it. He was gracious, self-deprecating and funny.

Before I met him, though, I invited him to dinner. I'd seen an item in the Washington Post that mentioned President Clinton was a fan, and had invited him to dinner. This struck me as one of the coolest perks of being President; but then, small-d democrat that I am, I thought, "Why shouldn't anyone be allowed to invite their favorite authors to dinner?" So I scrawled out an invitation, mailed it to Mr. Hiaasen at the Miami Herald, and got a very nice postcard in reply, about two weeks later. (That would have been 1993, probably; the kinder, politer days before e-mail.) I still have that postcard somewhere, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, it was this experience that showed me that authors -- even genius, bestselling authors -- are just people working at a craft. And it's probably true that this revelation set me on the path to where I am now. So thanks for being a good guy, Mr. Hiaasen.

DOUBLE WHAMMY is Hiaasen's second novel, and although I would never, ever say that someone's second novel was the best of his long career, it remains my sentimental favorite. It's about lying, cheating and murder in the world of professional bass fishing, and it still makes me laugh out loud. Hiaasen's recurring character, the eccentric former governor Skink, plays a key role here, as does his long-suffering friend, State Trooper Jim Tile. I had owned and read a paperback copy, which I gave away when I found this book on the shelf when he signed STORMY WEATHER.


Karen Olson said...

This is one Hiassen I haven't read. I'll have to check it out. I can't say that I have a favorite of his, since there's so much to like in all of them, even Sick Puppy, which was the one I think I liked the least, next to Strip Tease.

Anonymous said...

What I like the most about Hiaasen is his characters. They are all left of center, people you see on the street, or in Wal-Mart and say, "Oh my!" In Sick Puppy, he had this guy Toole, who rode around in his pick up and stole memorial crosses from the side of the highway. I think I've seen Toole around St. Louis.


Archimedes Principle said...

I went to a signing of his at a mystery / crime bookshop on Charing Cross Road in the West End about a decade ago. The shop's gone and I can't for the life me think of the name of the book he was then publicizing now; what I do remember very clearly is just what an affable and humourous man he was.