Monday, September 2, 2013

Lucky You - Carl Hiaasen

   1997; 449 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Humor, Florida Crime Noir.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Lucky JoLayne Lucks.  She’s just won the state Lotto, and it’s worth 28 million dollars.  Actually, only 14 million, since there were two winning tickets.  But hey, that’s still plenty of money for each of them.  It’s too bad the people with the other winning ticket don’t see it that way.

   Unlucky Tom Krome.  His newspaper has sent him to interview JoLayne, and write a soft, feel-good article.  The kind he hates.  To boot, his wife refuses to give him a divorce, and his mistress of two weeks is leaving him.

    Go ahead and make the trip, Tom.  Madcap mayhem lies a-waitin’.

What’s To Like...
    If it’s a book by Carl Hiaasen, you know it will be set in Florida, have interesting and wacko characters, violence, romance, and above all zany humor.  Lucky You is no exception.

    There are a slew of plotlines, involving everything from the lottery tickets to miracle rackets, turtles, shopping malls, militias, and more.  The pace is quick, and the action roams up and down the length of Florida.  Some of the themes Hiaasen examines are hilarious – a NATO invasion of the USA, the face of Jesus in an oil-spill on the road, and the Zen of being a Hooters waitress.

    But Hiaasen also blends in some more serious themes – interracial relationships, water management in Florida, and xenophobic tea-baggers (written several years before tea-baggers arose).

    The two protagonists – Tom and JoLayne – both have a streak of anti-hero in them – especially when it comes to stable relationships.  And the baddies may be all bad, but there’s also a smidgen of charm in their paranoid stupidity.  In addition to the violence, there are drugs and alcohol; so don’t read this if you’re a prude about these things.  Ditto if you happen to be a xenophobic tea-bagger, you won't like this book at all.

    As is always true with Hiaasen novels – this is a standalone story, with all the plot threads and themes being resolved nicely at the end.  The tale may be low-brow, but the writing is topnotch.

    “I’ve got shitty news: Tom Krome’s dead.”
    “Looks that way.  The arson guys found a body in the house.”
    “No!” Sinclair insisted.  “It’s not possible.”
    “Burned beyond recognition.”
    “But Tom went to Miami with the lottery woman!”
    “Who told you that?”
    “The man with the turtles.”
    “I see,” said the managing editor.  “What about the man with the giraffes – what did he say?  And the bearded lady with penguins – did you ask her?”  (pg. 194)

    Shiner remembered what Bodean Gazzer had said about seat belts being part of the government’s secret plot to “neutralize the citizenry.”  If you’re wearing seat belts, Bode had explained, it’ll be harder to jump out of the car and escape, once the NATO helicopters start landing on the highways.  That’s the whole reason they made the seat belt law, Bode had said, to make sure millions of Americans would be strapped down and helpless when the global attack was launched.  (pg. 229)

“There wasn’t much difference, when you got down to the core morality of it, between Mickey Mouse and a fiberglass Madonna.”  (pg. 13)
    Lucky You was my fourth Carl Hiaasen book, and thus far, the one I've most enjoyed.  I’m not sure if I’m slowly getting acclimated to his style of storytelling, or if his books are “hit-or-miss”, and the last two have been “hits”.  I think in this case, it was because some of the themes – racial bigotry, gun nuts, and religious fraud – resonate with me.

    It’s got to be hard to keep coming up with fresh stories when your self-imposed geographic limitations are the borders of Florida, but Hiaasen seems to be up to the task.  8½ Stars.

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