Saturday, January 03, 2009

Skin Tight: A book review (and a note about being home)

I’m home now, arriving here last night and kissing the snowing ground, thankful for a safe trip. I’ve never seen as many accidents as yesterday—when a freezing rain came through western North Carolina. At nearly every bridge there were accidents. One involving a jack-knifed double-truck closed down I-77 for 90 minutes. When it got opened, we had to detour through the countryside around another accident, causing another ½ hour delay. Then, right after getting to Michigan, there was another pile up on the east bound lane of the interstate and cars were backed up. It didn’t bother me as I was heading west, but all a sudden a car in the east lane jerked and jumped up on the concrete barrier separating the lanes. For a moment I thought the car was coming over on my side as his headlights were pointing straight at me, but he didn’t. Somehow he (or she) managed not to roll the vehicle as the car stayed in the eastbound lane. I don’t want the last thing I see on this earth being two headlights flying over a medium! The driver must have fallen asleep and woke up and panicked with a line or stopped cars ahead. Enough of that…

As I let you know earlier, I spent December reading only humorous or feel good books. Here’s my review of my latest Carl Hiassen book, which I listened to on an ipod.

Carl Hiassen, Skin Tight (Putman, 1989). Audio book,

Carl Hiassen must be a nightmare for the South Florida Chamber of Commerce. This is my fourth Hiassen book (and third to which I’ve listened) and from these funny stories, one has to wonder if there is anyone sane in South Florida—including Hiassen. In Skin Tight, Haissen takes on the plastic surgery industry. Four years earlier, a greedy plastic surgeon accidently killed a young coed upon whom he was performing a nose job. Unbeknownst to Mick Stranahan, the surgeon thinks the former cop has incriminating evidence and hires a mob hit man from New Jersey to take him. The mobster ends us dead, impaled by the bill of a stuff marlin (Mick had to use what he had on hand to take out the killer). This begins a wave of killings of bad guys. Most die at the hands of Mick, but the doctor’s new hit man, Chemo, takes out Mick’s ex and a police officer friend of Mick’s gets the doctor’s brother. The doctor does some killing too, but it’s only on the operating table.

Hiassen overdoes the characters and the killings in this book. There’s Chemo, a huge formerly Amish man who’s wanted for murder and who has a horribly scared face (hence, his name). Chemo, without the benefit of worker’s comp, loses a hand in his pursuit of Mick (when Chemo falls in the water outside of Mick’s home, Mick’s pet barracuda decides to strike at his watch, taking off his hand. Chemo becomes an even more refined freak when he adds a weed whacker to the stump at the end of his arm. Then there’s Mick’s ex, who is more than willing to show the hit man (whom she assumed was a bill collector) where Mick lives. When she discovers that Chemo plans to kill Mick and objects (she didn’t want him dead, just hurt), she’s tossed overboard, wrapped in the anchor chain. Then there’s a Geraldo type TV star, whose death is let me just say, surreal. (I don’t recommend this book if you’re considering liposuction.) Then there’s Rudy, the plastic surgeon who, having caused two deaths while supposedly practicing medicine, just wants to retreat to Costa Rica with his Hollywood actress girlfriend. Instead, he experiences a literal case of “eye for an eye justice” (or in this case, nose for a nose). Then there’s Rudy’s brother. He’s in the lawn care business with a tree chipper which does wonders at making bodies disappear. Again, there’s eye for eye justice. Then there’s Rudy’s former nurse, who wants to sell what she knows about the surgeon to the highest bidder. Then there are the crooked cops who also want to see Mick dead, but whose best laid plans are brought to a quick end by Mick’s better laid plans (or tighter strung marlin line). Then there’s Mick’s sorry lawyer brother-in-law, who can’t keep his hands off other women. Then there’s the beautiful young woman who just keeps showing up at Mick’s house, but fails to seduce the former cop because she can’t name all the members of the Beatles. And then there’s Christine, the TV producer, who can’t seem to decide if she loves or hates Mick, but at least she can name the members of the Fab-four. Like I said, there were a lot of characters in this book and after creating this list, I need a nap…

This was one of Hiassen’s earlier books which may be why there are so many characters and even a few strings left untied. His other books seem more tightly constructed. But even in his early books, Hiassen makes murder funny. Having now read four other books by Hiassen, I see some names and themes that are common. Mick later appears in Hiassen’s book, Skinny Dip. Mick’s fish (the barracuda) seems to find a parallel with Shink’s big hog (largemouth bass) in Double Whammy (which was published before Skin Tight). Hiassen seems to often create bad guys which home one can detest while also feeling sorry for. Chemo and the hired thug in Skinny Dip both fall into this category. However, Chemo doesn’t find redemption (unlike the thug in Skinny Dip), just a 17 year prison sentence.

This book is funny and if you can laugh and not get to squeamish, I recommend it.
An update: In the "Business Insider," a catch all area for weird business news in today's Detroit Free Press (have you ever known a newspaper that was truly free?), there is a story about a Hollywood plastic surgeon who fuels his and his girlfriend's cars on people's fat that he harvests from liposuction... This guy sounds too much like a resurrected Rudy Graveline, including the fact that the surgeon was now in South America after having been sued by patients and sought after by the state of California for breaking a law regarding using other folk's fat as fuel. To quote Dave Barry, "I'm not making this up." (But someone else may have made it up). Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the newspaper puts their "business insider" column online, or I would have provided a link.


  1. I loved Skinny Dip and laughed all the way through. I recently struggled through Strip Tease and finished reading it only because I started and have this compulsion to finish what I start. Can't say that I persevered through my last Grisham novel. I have Sick Puppy ready to start.

    Thanks for another review!

  2. Good that you are safely at home.

    Interesting review. Gotta check him out.

    This year I plan to read lot more books than I did last year.

  3. Skinny Dip is the only one I've read. I keep meaning to try another of his books, but . . . well . . . other books call to me.

    Glad you're home safe and sound.

  4. There are so many road accidents nowadays, aren't they? Sigh.

    All the psycho characters in his books are really over the top bizarre. His books are nonetheless funny though.

  5. Kontan, I'd have to say Skinny Dip and Sick Puppy are my favorite.

    Gautami, for you to plan to read more is amazing! I wish I read as much as you.

    Beth, thanks for stopping by!

    Mother Hen, mostly the accidents were from people driving too fast across frozen bridges.

  6. I had be a little accident over the holidays. I needed a last minute Christmas present so I headed up to Memphis in the F150. Hubby told me not to drive my new car b/c of the low profiles hydroplaning easier than normal wheels.

    Well, I hydroplaned anyway. I thought I had it undercontrol and was heading back to the inside lane w/o the ruts and lost it. I knew there was nothing to do as I picked up speed and began to lose all traction from the back wheels. By controlling I would have flipped, that's how fast it was, so I basically let go of the steering wheel and tried to relax. The truck did a nice donut then went into reverse down the grade and back up the hill then corrected itself forward to face the interstate on the way down the hill. The mud and the water slowed and stopped me. No harm no foul, it was a fun ride and I know it was fun to watch.

    The wrecker pulled me out and I went on my way to the store. Got home and hubby cleaned all the grass and mud out of the crevasses. :D

    Hum? How would I handle it with a weed-whacker attached to my arm? ;D

  7. I could read this book...or just go for a walk on South Beach. :)

    All I could think while reading this review was...I'm so glad I didn't take that linguist job!

    Carl Hiaasen has a column in the local paper, which I've read, but I'm still left wanting to read his books. He's been recommended my a few friends, so maybe we'll choose one of his books at the next book club meeting.

  8. Skinny Dip and Sick Puppy are my favorite Hiassen books too.

  9. I've read one or two of his books and liked them, so I'll try that one as well.

    I can't believe you drove through all that mess, Sage. I might have gone to a hotel for the duration. I'm glad to know that you got home safely.

  10. Scarlet, I should read his column.

    Diane, you and my sister both recommended Hiassen to me, thanks!

    Venus, thanks!

    Kenju, they weren't calling for the freezing rain till later, but it came in earlier--I hoped we would miss it. After we got out of NC, the roads were fine!

  11. I loved Skinny Dip. I actually have another Hiassan book to read on my shelf here somewhere...I like the guy. Sick Puppy. That's it. I had to go find it.

    Glad you are safely back. 77 can be a pain anyway but the ice has been troublesome. I hit a patch with my nephew last week after his Christmas play at church. There were cars all off the road. Luckily no tractor trailers though.

  12. You came through this way and didn't stop to couch surf?

    Welcome back!

  13. I-77 i Western North Carolina? Boy! You are from Down East. But in seriousness, it was icy in places, not here in Transylvania County, but up around Asheville I hear it was real slippery. And to thinkthe day before I saw a snake sunning out of it's den.

  14. Sage: Glad you arrived home safely! I read a large book on horses and another by actress Barbara Leigh. Wishing you all good things in 2009!

  15. That freezing rain on Saturday wasn't so bad in Detroit...I've long contended that Detroit is so out of control that even the weather won't stay long.

    And sanity and South Florida I think have nothing in common, actually Skin tight sounds pretty funny. I never minded seeing a doctor in literature be in trouble.

  16. I just hate traveling anymore when the conditions are less than ideal. Not because I can't drive on the stuff but because it seems so many people these days think their pickups and SUV's are immune to loosing control in slippery conditions. The last one I drove through coming back from Pennsylvania, I saw probably 10 trucks or SUV's in the ditch for every one car.

  17. So I have to say, I was on the first paragraph of your review and all I could think was "Sage's idea of lighthearted is this much killing?" lol

    Glad you made it home safely! We had freezing rain here the other night, and it reminded me that I would much rather have snow. *shudder* Hard as that is to imagine...

  18. There's something about Hiassan (sic) that bothers me. He's usually too broad but I loved one book and he has great friends--always willing to give a friend of Warren Zevon's one more chance

    Happy New Year Sage

  19. Deana, as a dog lover, you'll love Sick Puppy

    Fantasy Life, Is your couch lumpy? Are you around Dayton? I came through there at about 11 PM!

    Appalachianist, it's all a matter of perspective and from where you are, I-77 is east! I'd been in the Hickory area.

    Michael, thanks for the well wishes, it's good to be home.

    Walking Guy, welcome to my blog. The only problem I had with ice was in NC

    Ed, I agree--I couldn't believe when someone passed me going over 70 on one of those icy bridges!

    TC, I'll take snow anyday.

    Pia, I went back and check and I've been spelling this guy's name wrong all along--with a name like that, why didn't he change it to something easy to spell, like Smith?

  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.