At his best, Hiaasen has always been capable of provoking this response - and, for me, Double Whammy is the pick of a very strong catalogue.
Hiaasen's novels occupy a genre almost all of their own: 'Florida crazy', I like to think of them. At the heart of each of them is the greed, venality and narcissism of some individual or group bent on plundering either the natural resources or ordinary folk of the State for their own awful ends. Often the villain of the piece is a property developer, raping Florida's extraordinary natural habitat to build another set of waterfront condominiums; in one it is television evangelists, in another theme park owners or cosmetic surgeons - or just low life thieving scum. Whoever the villain and whatever their crime, Hiaasen tells their story with the most acidic pen, depicting life in the Sunshine State with biting satire and vicious wit.
In Double Whammy, the focus is the celebrity bass fishing scene, and a PI's investigation into the possibility that television host and bass fisherman extraordinaire, Dickie Lockhart, is rigging tournaments and murdering rivals, possibly aided and abetted by the proprietor of his broadcaster, Outdoor Christian Network, the Reverend Weeb. Double Whammy has everything Hiaasen has to offer: a hapless hero, self-obsessed media star, a corrupt clergyman, a roadkill-eating madman and even a villain with a dead and decaying pit bull attached to his arm. It is savagely funny, and despite the utter absurdity of the vast majority of the situations, almost entirely believable.
And that in part is because Hiaasen's source, Florida crazy, is such a deep deep well. In 2004, I was fortunate to interview Hiaasen for a Lunch with the FT feature. During the course of lunch he described how most of his characters and ideas walked into his life through newspaper stories. All the nuttiness and evil that many readers might have supposed were exaggeration, were anything but.
"I remember when I wrote Skin Tight I thought I invented the worst possible practitioner of cosmetic surgery that there has ever been," he told me. But since the book came out there have been a number of cases in Florida more ghastly and outrageous than anything I could have invented. And that's deflating, that real life could trump me so easily. But that's the problem with living in Florida."
Hiaasen also said in that interview that it is his anger at the destruction of Florida that drives the humour. Laugh or cry? With Hiaasen you can do both.