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reviews Kick Ass Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen By Carl Hiaasen University Press of Florida, 1999 447 pp. Cloth $24.95 Reviewed by David ZuccMlK», Projects Editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author ofMyth ofthe WelfareQueen, an account of the lives ofinner city welfare mothers, published by Scribner, 1997. Carl Hiaasen is blessed with what the military calls a "target-rich environment." He has the good fortune to patrol South Florida, home to venal politicians, craven public servants, horny cops, rapacious sports team owners, profligate sugar barons and all manner of spectator sports involving carnivorous animals. For a newspaper columnist, this is open season—with no limits. Hiaasen opens fire, and he is pitiless. He savages the men and institutions he believes are turning his beloved Miami and South Florida into a crass, violent, drug-soaked strip mall. The region's unfortunate evolution has not always been kind to its residents, but it has proved unfailingly bountiful for a sharp-shooting columnist hunting easy prey. Many readers know Hiaasen as a best-selling novelist, author of such works as Strip Tease, Native Tongue, and Stormy Weather. But he is first and foremost a newspaper columnist. From his post at TheMiamiHerald, he practices an especially virile form of muckraking, laced with venom and wit. His twice weekly "baseballbat -to-the forehead" column has appeared since 1985, with more than 200 of them selected for this collection. IfHiaasen's colleague Dave Barry represents the gende, whimsical Disney version ofa newspaper column, then Hiaasen represents the hard-core porn variety. His job description: "You just cover a lot of territory and you do it aggressively and you do it fairly and you don't play favorites and you don't take any prisoners. It's the old school of slash-and-burn metropolitan column writing. You just kick ass. That's what you do. And that's what they pay you to do." 73 Consider Hiaasen's treatment ofMiami's poor little rich kid, Wayne Huizenga, owner ofthe Florida Panthers hockey team. When Huizenga demanded that taxpayers build him a new arena, Hiaasen summarized "Wily Wayne's" pitch: "It's not enough to pay for overpriced parking, overpriced tickets, overpriced junk food and overpriced souvenirs. No, you should pay for the overpriced facilities, too." And when Huizenga insisted that taxpayers shell out $60 million for new stadium toilets, Hiaasen asked the question on the lips of all Floridians: "Is the Legislature slutty enough to roll over twice for the same smooth-talking billionaire ?" (It was.) Like any good columnist, Hiaasen has a sharply honed sense ofoutrage. After his newspaper revealed that one in three Miami city employees had filed for workers' compensation—for such injuries as paper cuts, chipping a tooth on a Snickers bar, or cutting a hand while opening a can of cat food—Hiaasen came up with a new city slogan: Banana Peel Republic. When a Hispanic city cop was caught having sex in a county car, he sued the detective who had caught him inflagrante delicto, claiming he was a victim of anti-Hispanic discrimination. And he won! He got $180,000 and a $50,000-a-year pension. "Talk about an afterglow," Hiaasen wrote. And the moral ofthe story, according to Hiaasen? "When the cop car's rockin', don't come knockin'." Somehow, while tiptoeing through slime, Hiaasen manages to look on the bright side. Here's how he assessed the eclipse ofa port official accused ofswindling county taxpayers: "The bad news: Vanquished Port ofMiami chiefCarmen Lunetta will receive a golden parachute of $328,501 cash, in addition to his $11 3,000-a-year-pension. The good news: Some lawyer will probably get most of it." When a Miami city official received a fat pension despite pleading guilty to a long-standing bribery scheme, Hiaasen viewed it as a money-saving opportunity. Pointing out that the official would have earned $6o,ooo-a-year from just one of his many kickback deals, Hiaasen calculated that the official's $58,166 pension represented "a net saving to taxpayers of $1,834 yearly against his future bribes. (And those are just the future bribes we know...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 73-76
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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