Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Skink No Surrender: I love Carl Hiaasen!

I love Carl Hiaasen so much that I eagerly await each new book on tiptoes. I have read all of his books, even his children’s books. So of course I had to read Skink, No Surrender. I even love his news feature writings and all of his Florida articles. Hiaasen is well known for his love for Florida and dislike for impingements and destruction of Florida wildlife. Hiaasen’s writing is quirky and it is obvious he truly understands all his characters, from the very strange, to the crazy and gifted. All his characters have substance and well developed traits.

Being a completist, once I decide I truly love an author, and I love love love Hiaasen! I read everything he writes. Hiaasen has many causes, many of which I also hold dear, such as protecting our earth and our planet by stopping all harmful practices to it. These include, but are not limited to: oil drilling, oil spills, fracking, overfishing, factory farming, causing wildlife to disappear by building more condominiums and tourist traps. This is a subject I put last because building and destroying natural habitat has so many consequences it deserves more than the paltry words I write here.

I love his writings for several reasons: I love to laugh, I love all of his characters and especially Skink, (who I am certain is a small part of Hiaasen), I love the way he twists and builds a story, and I love to be informed about wildlife destruction by someone who passionately cares. I love reading Hiaasen because he expands me as a writer.

Skink is a reappearing hero in many of Hiaasen’s novels. Skink AKA Clinton Tyree is the ex-governor of Florida, a decorated Vietnam vet with sparkling white teeth and probably the only honest man to hold office. He gave passionate speeches and gained national recognition is his attempts to discourage tourism and further development. Also reappearing is his best friend Jim Tile, an African American State Trooper and former chief bodyguard for the former governor who now continues to watch out for and help Tyree. These two have a long complex history that few in the story really know the depth of.

The built in conflict is Hiaasen loves his land, he even loves his country –obvious in the ways he discusses wrongs done to land and peoples, but he cannot and will not tolerate all the wrongs and this theme is consistent in all his novels, stories and writings. Plus he is outright funny. I love to read him because I always laugh out loud.

The point is Hiaasen writes about what he is passionate about. Although he always writes about quirky strange characters, these are also people he understands. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction, if you consider for example, the bizarre yet true characters displayed in the movie, “No Pain, No Gain,” directed by Michael Bay, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. This story is based on a true-life story about what a group of bodybuilders working for Sun Gym actually did. At one point in the film, the director stops the film and informs the watcher, “Wait! This actually happened!” to show the extreme absurdity of how far a criminal mind will go to get what they want. Don’t want to get off the mark but I find out that Marky Mark AKA Mark Wahlberg has a shady past. Wahlberg makes amends by his sincere effort to prevent others from doing what he did and he puts his money where his mouth is. I’ll go back topic here to Hiaasen, after delightfully diverting myself – but my point is - Hiaasen is the mastermind when it comes to developing these nutsy type characters who are either good, evil, smart, stupid or somewhere in between totally crazy or weird. It is probably true and strange that these are the type people Hiaasen as a journalist observed over the years. Journalists always are the best reporters because they know who to report what they see with no judgments aside from the report that this is what happened. How the movie relates to Hiaasen is that it shows that indeed, truth is often stranger than fiction so although Hiaasen digs these characters out of his head and creates them, strange crazy people like this really exist. 

The biggest lesson learned from Skink is that you can’t best a system but you can work within a system to manipulate it. This is the lesson to be learned from Skink, our infamous hero. Skink permanently left public office, frustrated with being governor. Skink left being governor behind, seeing it is easier to accomplish more in the good against evil battle from outside the system, using various wiles at his disposal and sometimes combined with other illegal procedures. Sometimes you have to work outside a system to effect change within it. Skink’s been suspected of murder, but he is so elusive, he always manages to get away.

Skink works in and outside law like when he decides to take our boy hero, Richard under his protection. Suddenly, Jim Tile appears, Skink’s best friend and law enforcement official and gives Richard a driver’s license. Skink meets Richard on a beach when searching to find his cousin Malley, who has run away to avoid boarding school in Massachusetts. Skink is working to protect some protected turtles and is burying himself to discover who is stealing the eggs which are marked by sticks and flags when discovered. Richard finds the straw and uncovers him. Skink and Richard take off on a mission to rescue Malley.

I feel a kinship with Skink because of my consistent need to help others do right and get what is coming to them, be it good or bad. All get what they deserve with Skink, who is a force of nature akin to a hurricane or windstorm. There’s no stopping Skink. The only thing missing in this book is any kind of profanity or swearing. Hiaasen's timing is exquisite and he provides comic relief. If you want to be entertained and laugh read him. The story is super exciting and moves fast. I finished the book in a day. I highly recommend this book to young teens and can guarantee its enjoyment. I recommend this for any child who reads for enjoyment, even if they are younger than pre-teen. For example if my 7-year old grandson wanted to read this and was able to read it, I’d let him. Maybe even 6, or earlier. I think reading should always be encouraged unless it requires parental controls. There are always limits. If my 6-year-old grandson wanted this read to him, I’d do it.  I believe children are often good judges of their capabilities.

Goodwill Hunting and Hats off to Skink, with his road kill and strong moral demeanor. Skink will never be outdone or won! Hiaasen has done it again!

Hats off to Hiaasen!

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