Synopses & Reviews
Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn’t know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and now he’s found a way–doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn’t die in the fall.
Clinging blindly to a bale of Jamaican pot, Joey Perrone is plucked from the ocean by former cop and current loner Mick Stranahan. Instead of rushing to the police and reporting her husband’s crime, Joey decides to stay dead and (with Mick’s help) screw with Chaz until he screws himself.
As Joey haunts and taunts her homicidal husband, as Chaz’s cold-blooded cohorts in pollution grow uneasy about his ineptitude and increasingly erratic behavior, as Mick Stranahan discovers that six failed marriages and years of island solitude haven’t killed the reckless romantic in him, we’re taken on a hilarious, full-throttle, pure Hiaasen ride through the warped politics and mayhem of the human environment, and the human heart.
"Hiaasen's signature mix of hilariously over-the-top villains, lovable innocents and righteous indignation at what mankind has done to his beloved Florida wilderness is all present in riotous abundance in his latest. It begins with attractive heiress Joey Perrone being tossed overboard from a cruise ship by her larcenous husband, Chaz not for her money, which she has had the good sense to keep well away from him, but because he fears she is onto his crooked dealings with a ruthless tycoon who is poisoning the Everglades. But instead of drowning as she's supposed to, Joey stays afloat until she is rescued by moody ex-cop Mick Stranahan, a loner who has also struck out in the marriage department. Then the two together, with the unwitting aid of a suspicious cop who can't pin the attempted murder on Chaz, hatch a sadistic plot to scare that 'maggot' out of what little wit he has. Even Tool, a hulking brute sent by the tycoon to keep an eye on Chaz, eventually turns against him, and much of the fun is in watching the deplorable Chaz flounder further and further in the murk, both literally and figuratively (Chaz's job, as the world's unlikeliest marine biologist, involves falsifying water pollution levels for the tycoon). Hiaasen's books are so enjoyable it's always a sad moment when they end. In this case, however, sadness is mixed with puzzlement because the book seems to end in mid-scene, with Chaz in trouble again but is it terminal? We thought at first there were some pages missing, but Knopf says that was the ending Hiaasen intended. Odd. 300,000 first printing; author tour. Agent, Esther Newberg. (July 16) Forecast: Until that seemingly unresolved ending, this is vintage Hiaasen, with some wonderfully likable characters as well as his signature obnoxious heavies, and the plot is a delightful mixture of farce and suspense. The pop art jacket is striking, and sales should be as strong as always." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[B]itingly satirical, sublimely zany, and deeply satisfying." Kirkus Reviews
"Another delirious romp through the swamps of South Florida from irrepressible Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen....Like Hiaasen's nine previous novels, this one's a corker, chock-full of belly laughs and blistering truths." Allison Block, Booklist (Starred Review)
"Carl Hiaasen did not need to get any better....But Skinny Dip
...[is] a screwball delight so full of bright, deft, beautifully honed humor that it places Mr. Hiaasen in the company of Preston Sturges
, Woody Allen
and S. J. Perelman
." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Writers who can construct a wide-ranging plot without losing sight of the mystery at its center are rare; Hiaasen is one....Skinny Dip is...rich with incidental rewards wry lines, savagely etched minor characters, comic set pieces... (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"It has rarely been this much fun to read about the act of revenge. All of the trademark characters and Florida locales are used to maximum effect. One of Hiassen's best and that's the naked truth." Library Journal
"Hiaasen is fast emerging as our most nimble satirist...sharp, but never slick, humane but never sentimental." Newsweek
"He is so good he ought to be illegal." Donald E. Westlake
"The most original, offbeat, and satisfying mystery novelist working today." San Francisco Chronicle
"The Mark Twain of the crime novel...a master of tilting things to make grim reality funny." Tony Hillerman
"Hiaasen ultimately does not trust his readers enough to challenge them by dropping the shtick, the tricks with smoke and mirrors, and applying his intelligence to fashioning serious characters learning serious lessons." Chicago Sun-Times
"Carl Hiaasen's latest comedy of ill manners is so dense with absurdities and outrages that you're tempted to think his word processor's been outfitted with a sleaze compactor." Newsday
"Hiaasen seems to have turned down the burner on the sarcasm....Hiaasen may have lost a bit of the anger, but rest assured he's in the best of humors for this latest." Rocky Mountain News
"[T]his may be one of his best yet....Hiaasen brings us fresh, new and appealing characters, a plot to keep you turning the pages, and his usual humorous swipe at the bad guys who continue...to despoil Florida's ecosystem." Roz Shea, BookReporter.com
"Plenty of successful popular-fiction writers really know how to flog a winning formula, but few turn out books as relentlessly enjoyable as Carl Hiaasen's....[O]ne accomplished writer." Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"This is pretty standard stuff, but in Hiaasen's hands it becomes a stinging and ridiculously funny tour de farce....Skinny Dip is not just good fun and good Hiaasen; it's excellent social commentary without the long faces." Sam Harrison, Miami Herald
"[Hiaasen] has produced his best work to date with his newest novel, Skinny Dip....Hiaasen has taken a subtle but impressive step forward in what is already a literary career to be proud of." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Carl Hiaasen at his merry-prankster best....It's a testament to Hiaasen's talent that he can maintain his freshness and control after 10 novels even if he may bemoan the fact that he'll probably never run short of material." Michele Ross, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"In the end, the book feels like a cruise aboard a well-appointed boat that leaks. The ride is comfortable and fun until the underlying structure sinks." Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun
is Hiaasen's latest escapade, and like the others it is hilarious and furious. It is also his most topical novel, using as its backdrop the $8 billion effort to restore the ravaged Everglades ecosystem, the most important public works project in the history of Florida and the largest environmental project in the history of the planet. That said, I must make an observation about Hiaasen's fiction that will border on blasphemy in many Florida precincts: it is fiction
." Michael Grunwald, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
A shady marine scientist suspects that his wife knows that he has been doctoring water samples so that a ruthless tycoon can continue polluting the Everglades, so he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner. But she's saved by former cop Mick Stranahan and that's when the real adventure begins.
About the Author
Q: How did you decide on the title of your new novel, SKINNY DIP?
A: My late and dear friend, Warren Zevon, suggested the title as he was reading the manuscript a few weeks before he passed away. One of the main characters, Mick Stranahan, had appeared in an earlier novel of mine called SKIN TIGHT. Warren thought SKINNY DIP would tie the books together for readers, and would also be appropriate because the heroine of the new novel ends up naked in the ocean in the first chapter. My editor loved the title, but I wasn't surprised. Warren's songs had some of the best titles ever written in rock and roll.
Q: Was there a specific motivation to write SKINNY DIP?
A: Yes, it's called a contract. If I don't write, they send nasty letters and turn their lawyers loose on me.
Seriously, the idea for the plot came from a true story about a young woman who vanished off a cruise liner in the Caribbean during her honeymoon. She was never found, and to this day nobody knows what happened.
Q:Have you ever taken a cruise?
A: I'm proud to say I've never been on a cruise, which is probably the main reason I still weigh only 165 pounds. The main recreation on cruise ships is eating, which is apparently a 24-hour activity. By the time your trip is over they've got to roll you down the gangplank.
Q: Which writers have influenced you over the years?
A: Certain writers -- Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, John D. MacDonald -- made me want to become a writer myself. Others like John Irving and Tom Wolfe opened all kinds of doors in my head as I was reading them. I feel that way now when I read Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane and Martin Amis. They are all capable of that perfect, untouchable sentence.
Q: How did you decide to become a journalist?
A: I thought it was would be a cool way to learn how the world worked, and I was right. There's nothing that compares to working for a big-city newspaper, the breadth of experience you get in a very compressed amount of time. It can be grueling and aggravating and sad as hell, because so many true stories end badly. But it's also a terrific education for a young writer -- and it teaches you how to write fast, and how to write on days when you don't feel like writing.
Q: Tell us about Chaz Perrone.
A: He's one of my favorite dirtball villains. Chaz is a crooked biologist who goes to work for a ruthless agri-business tycoon. He infiltrates the Everglades restoration project and fakes water-quality tests to make the farm baron look legal. But the thing I really like about Chaz is that he so ill at ease in nature. He can't stand the swamp, the gators, the snakes, the bugs -- he's managed to choose the single vocation for which he's completely unsuited, and in the end he regrets it. Deeply.
Q: Besides Chaz, do you have a favorite character in SKINNY DIP?
A: I love Joey Perrone, Chaz's wife. I love the idea of her refusing to die when Chaz heaves her off the cruise ship in the first chapter. She's a romantic but she's also a pretty tough girl. She's not just after revenge -- she desperately wants to know why her husband would try to kill her on their second anniversary. This is a woman who realizes that she's married the ultimate creep, and by God she's going to get some answers.
Q: How do you decide when to reintroduce characters from previous novels?
A: I bring back old characters only if they fit into the new story. Skink, the crazed ex-governor, makes a memorable cameo in SKINNY DIP simply because some of the characters wander into his swampy domain. Mick Stranahan was a very interesting guy but I couldn't fit him into another novel until now. He seemed like the perfect choice to rescue Joey Perrone because he still lives on an island in Biscayne Bay, not far from where she's floating.
That's how it works. If everything fits together and the timing is right, I'll bring back a familiar face or two from the earlier books.
Q: Tell us about your children's book, HOOT, which was just released in paperback.
A: HOOT is a story that I borrowed from the pages of my own childhood. It's about three kids who are trying to save a colony of little burrowing owls from being destroyed by a big company that's putting up a pancake house in their town. When I was kid growing up in South Florida, those little owls were all over the place. Now they're practically wiped out.
I wrote HOOT for my stepson, nieces and nephew, who were all in that ten-to-fourteen year old bracket. Because the book was personal, it was fun. I was astonished when it won a Newbery Honor. Completely blown away. Let's face it, if you looked closely at my grownup novels, I'm not the kind of writer who seemed a likely choice to cross over smoothly into children's fiction. It was sort of like asking Sam Peckinpah to do a re-make of "Mary Poppins."
By some miracle, though, HOOT turned out well. I'm still amazed.