live in Central Florida, which means we’re always watching, in justified nervousness, the craziness of the Southern Coast (Miami and such places). Back in the eighties when I worked in a lumber yard down there, it was nothing to hear machine gun fire cutting the night (and not too far off).A house down the street from my apartment was dynamited by the mob. Miami Vice looked pretty tame to some of the things I saw. And now, that place isn’t just lurking criminal evilness – the entire city seems crazy.
Carl Hiaasen was one of the first to take these tales of nutty people instigating their own sordid adventures and make them lovable, laughable, and interesting. His dancers had hearts of gold. His criminals were either frightening or pathetically laughable (I still remember one guy who would use his daughter’s visitation to take her to the children’s hospital and steal wheelchairs). So he was the gold standard.
Dave Barry, a wonderful and popular humorist in his own rights, seems to have entered this realm of nutty-city stories with his own line in Miami. Tricky Business is about a cruise ship that must sail (to rendezvous with a cigarette boat for a discreet cash-for-cargo handoff), a hurricane, old guys in a home who want to go gambling, a cigarette girl who isn’t just that, and several other nutball characters.
I think I can sum up the differences in audiences with this: Barry warns his audience that there will be strong language. Hiaasen just flings it out there. I suppose Barry (who is more mainstream and enjoys a certain readership) has to keep them from flustering over it. With Hiaasen, he just let’s loose (and everyone knows it’s coming). I’ve picked up some of my best expletives from him.
So there is a hurricane and this ship must sail because of “previous business commitments”. Of course, its circling for gamblers three miles out is complicated by the storm that is rushing over it. Funny, but I would assume someone would say something about a gambling junket pushing into a massive hurricane. And actually, the hurricane didn’t seem the affect the ship at all (having been through Irma last year, I find this totally unbelievable). The deck didn’t rock. The crew didn’t fuss with the controls. Even the boat coming over to meet them, while the crew was seasick, but not inexplicably dead). It seemed that for all this hurricane talk, Barry lost sight of just how nutbutter crazy this actually was.
And then the climax went through the usual thing in some books where it was drawn out, where characters shot other characters, held them at gunpoint, ran after each other, fell into the water together, fell in love, died, on and on. Climaxes are supposed to be a short action of resolution, not a third of the book.
So yes, overall it was a fun casual read. But it didn’t cut it for me. I just feel like Hiaasen does gritty/funny crime better. My opinion only.
p.s. And this just came to mind – why doesn’t Berry (with his readership that he currently has) branch out into a new field like the suburban/tourism mecca of Orlando, where middle-class meets pixie dust and nothing is what it seems? Seems better for him than crowded literary-Miami.