Author Carl Hiaasen mines truth for fiction

I wait for the headlines to inspire me.


– Carl Hiaasen


Author Carl Hiaasen opened his talk in Columbia County on Saturday night by apologizing for the latest case of the “face-eating zombie” in Miami and explaining his theory of why his home state of Florida seems to produce America’s most bizarre behavior.

(It has something to do with America’s continental tilt.)

Of course, Hiaasen, a Miami Herald columnist who is also a very successful novelist, has for years taken such stories and woven them into entertaining bestsellers.

He has done so while insisting that many improbable tales were actually true, then producing a clip from a newspaper in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale or Miami that reports the same wacky weirdness that he has so accurately converted into literature.

As the featured guest Saturday at Columbia County’s fourth annual Books Alive celebration, he entertained an audience of fans with the stories behind his stories of corrupt politicians and homicidal alligators and amorous dolphins and everyday crimes so unusual that book editors and screenwriters insist they are too unbelievable for consideration.

That’s when, Carl told the audience, he would go to his clip files and pull something out.

His novels are popular. Strip Tease became a movie with Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore. And there’s Nature Girl, Basket Case, Star Island and even children’s books such as Hoot, which also became a movie.

Skinny Dip is my wife’s favorite. I really enjoyed Downhill Lie – Carl’s personal story of his rediscovery of golf after several decades in remission.

Hiaasen, who in person was as friendly as he is talented, might try to modestly pass himself off as a newspaper guy who just happens to write what he sees around him. But the truth is, it’s not that easy.

If it was, there would be more Carl Hiaasens.

There aren’t, and Columbia County was very lucky to get him booked for its event this past weekend.

Mary Lin Maner, the Columbia County libraries manager, told me the Books Alive event will now have a challenge – how to get another author as popular, funny and gracious.

That’s easy, I say. Just invite him back next year.

He can bring his golf clubs.


TODAY’S JOKE: An old favorite: A tough old cowboy from south Texas counseled his grandson that if he wanted to live a long life, the secret was to sprinkle a pinch of gunpowder on his oatmeal every morning.

The grandson did this religiously to the age of 103, when he died.

He left behind 14 children, 30 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren and a 15-foot crater where the crematorium used to be.