A real news clip about an unusual car accident, and a made-up reality show about chicken farmers are the main topics of Miami Herald Columnist Carl Hiaasen’s latest novel: Razor Girl. WUWF’s Bob Barrett spoke to Hiaasen about the book and that odd fender bender in the keys.
- About the inspiration for the title character: "My oldest son sent me the newspaper clipping from the Keys about that very unusual car accident and I had it on my cork board for, I don't know, a couple of years probably, trying to figure out how to work it into a novel. or if I could even improve on it for a novel. And I ended up just deciding I'd start a book with this weird car accident where the woman is driving down US 1 doing some 'personal grooming' and crashes into a car full of tourists in front of her. 'Shaving while driving' is not something we normally worry about on the road".
- Hiaasen took this accident and changed it to a deliberate act in the book. "We have people in South Florida who stage car accidents all the time for insurance payments, so I thought I would twist that into something a little more exotic.
- The other main character in Razor Girl is Andrew Yancy, a character from one of Hiaasen's previous novels. "It's the first time I've ever had the same character in consecutive novels." Yancy was in Hiaasen's 2013 novel Bad Monkey. "He's sort of a defrocked police detective and he got busted down to being a health inspector, what we call the Roach Patrol. He's inspecting kitchens and restaurants and all that stuff and he's trying to get his badge back. And at the end of Bad Monkey I really didn't advance his career very much. So I was feeling bad about and thought I'd give him another shot."
- Pensacola, while not the main location of the book, does get a mention. The story centers around the disappearance of Buck Nance, the patriarch of a dysfunctional family of bayou chicken farmers from the fictional reality TV show Bayou Brethren. While the show is supposed to be about a Louisiana bayou family, it's actually filmed on a 40 acre estate on Pensacola Bay. "In the old days, if there was weird or bizarre news it was usually coming out of South Florida. These days it comes from everywhere. I get clippings from all over the state on a consistent basis, so I have to include the whole state when I start weaving these stories."
- About the fictional TV show, an obvious take off on Duck Dynasty: "I get fascinated by this whole reality TV thing, especially this trend towards 'redneck reality TV'. being an older white bguy from the south, I'm fascinated with America's fascination with that culture. So I thought it would be funny if you had being pretending to be Louisiana chicken farmers, but in reality they were in Pensacola, the panhandle and in reality they really don't know that much about chicken farming. But it makes for good television. You watch these shows and, of course, they defy satire. That's the challenge, try to write something more absurd that what exists."
- Many of Hiaasen's novels have an environmental theme and Razor girl is no exception. In this book, Key West has an infestation of Gambian Pouched Rats. "Wait a minute, that's GIANT Gambian pouched rats, not just ANY pouched rat!" Hiaasen said while living i n the Keys he read reports about sightings of this invasive species. "There was a time when people were importing these things as pets, believe it or not. So, this guy in the Big Pine Key area, he just let the rats go. He had a little collection that he was breeding and I guess he felt bad for them so he let them loose. And they're still down there. You don't see a lot of them, but just the idea that they're lurking around was appealing to me as a novelist. So I decided to make the Giant Gambian pouched Rats a restaurant problem for [Yancy]. He's called to a restaurant where there have been sightings of these mammoth rodents. I thought [they] were a worthy adversary for him."
- Carl Hiaasen wears many hats. While he is a columnist, novelist, mystery writer and crime writer, he says his life revolves around that weekly Sunday column. "I've been with the (Miami Herald) since 1976. My week is anchored around that Sunday column I write, but obviously I spend a lot of time on the books and I write novels for kids now, too. So I don't know what I would put down in terms of a resume, but I always am a little leery when I hear the term 'crime fiction' because almost every piece of fiction you can read, going back to the beginning of time is about a crime. it might be a crime of the heart, it might be a crime of the soul, but crime is what makes the stories. The conflict, the struggle between what's right and wrong. So I don't see myself as a crime novelist. I write in the contemporary world about what's really happening in a place that I care about' Florida."