It all started with a conversation with K., who reads all the same mystery novels that I do. She was reading something by a writer I'd never read, but she wasn't sure about the title. A wealthy woman is shoved off a cruise ship by her lame-ass husband, but she survives, rescued by a) a floating bale of marijuana, and b) an ex-cop who lives on a isolated island with only a dog for company. The rest of the story is about how they figure out why he did it, and how she gets revenge. And revenge is what they get, first haunting the asshole husband, and then framing him for her murder. (Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiassen). It was funny and unexpectedly romantic, completely different from my usual British mysteries, and of course I had to read more. How I wound up reading the book that the great cinematic masterpiece starring Demi Moore (and a spectacular pair of breasts that looked as rigid and unyielding as tupperware bowls), Striptease, is based on, is unclear.
The books of Carl Hiassen are set in the murky swamps, the brightly gleaming cities of Florida, the former polluted by crooked politicians and land developers, the latter tacky with neon lights and badly-dressed tourists. Murder and accidental death by crocodile or snake or some other wild animal abounds; no one can shoot straight, injuring and annoying their victim instead of killing them, and a hitman is killed by his intended target, speared with the needle-sharp fin of a stuffed marlin. There are explosions and dismemberments and accidents involving dental instruments and endless coverups as panicked villians screw things up even more. People are out for justice, and they don't care about how they get it. Usually without entirely legal means. And then I found that Hiassen wrote children's books.
Hiassen's children's books are set in that same Florida as his other ones, but they are about children fighting for a cause - usually involving the environment - without regard to rules and laws. There are parents and school bullies and local law-enforcement personnel and The Bad Guys to dodge. There are owls to save (Hoot) and a casino-boat-owner to stop from dumping raw sewage into the formerly pristine Florida waters (Flush). And there is more than that. We (through our characters' eyes) learn that parents are human, that some things are worth fighting for, breaking the rules for. That even if all the forces seem aligned against you, there are allies to be found, and you have to try. And they win. The bad guys get whatever justice is coming to them, the schoolyard bullies get their comeuppance, the owls are saved. Another day in the Florida sun.