Saturday, December 18, 2010

Carl Hiaasen's Tourist Season

First the chairman of the Miami - Dade County Chamber of Commerce is found stuffed into a suitcase covered with sun tan lotion, wearing a flowered Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, and sunglasses. He was murdered by having a rubber alligator stuffed down his throat. Then tourists and “snow birds” (Yankees who have moved south to Sunny Florida) start disappearing and being murdered all over Miami. A terrorist group calling itself Las Noches de Deciembre takes credit for the killings. Las Noches are headed by a disgruntled columnist for the Miami newspaper who is a rabid environmentalist, a former professional football player and a Seminole Indian who want to wage war against the white man, and a Cuban who was thrown out of a right wing anti-Castro terrorist group because he could never make a bomb which went off properly. Las Noches want to rid Florida of the pollution caused by tourists and out of state transplants and return it to the pristine untouched wilderness which it once was.

The above is loosely the plot of Carl Hiaasen’s wild dark comedy, Tourist Season (1986). Hiaasen, a columnist for the Miami Herald, is passionate about environmental concerns in his native Florida. In this, his first solo novel (Hiaasen had previously co-authored a couple of novels with another writer), Hiaasen writes the Florida environmentalist fantasy: Kill the tourists, run the snowbirds back up north to Yankee land, and blow up the condos and hotels.

While not nearly as funny as Striptease, Tourist Season has its comic high points. Anyone that can’t find anything funny about cold blooded murder should pass on this book. Taken all in jest, however, this is pretty funny stuff. The old widow from New York City whose husband insisted that they retire to Florida and is now stuck in the condo he bought even though she hates it, is murdered by Las Noches by being fed to a crocodile and goes to her death thinking that she hopes her husband is satisfied now. This is about what she expected from Florida. She would rather have stayed in New York where she could walk to the market.

The madcap comedy aside, like all of Hiaasen’s novels, Tourist Season has a very serious point: the destruction of the environment. Although the words are those of the psychotic environmental terrorist Skip Wiley, I am sure that the sentiment is Hiaasen’s:

Today the Florida most of you know - and created, in fact - is a suburban tundra purged of all primeval wonder save for the sacred solar orb. For all you care, this could be Scottsdale, Arizona with beaches.

Let me fill you in on what’s been going on the last few years: the Glades have begun to dry up and die; the fresh water supply is being poisoned with unpotable toxic scum; up near Orlando they actually tried to straighten a bloody river; in Miami the beachfront hotels are pumping raw sewage into the Gulf Stream; statewide there is a murder every seven hours; the panther is nearly extinct; grotesque three-headed nuclear trout are being caught in Biscayne Bay; and Dade County’s gone totally Republican.

Although it’s twenty four years old, Tourist Season is still good for a few laughs and some serious food for thought about the environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment