A Journalist's Archive

Sick Puppy
Carl Hiaasen
Reviewed by Kathy Hare

          "Sick Puppy" starts off like a Hemmingway novel with Palmer Stoat hunting a rare African black rhinoceros. 

          Unless the reader has read other Carl Hiaasen novels they would never suspect the "hunt" actually takes place in a Florida game reserve where macho men spend $50,000 to shoot sedated endangered species for sport. But I've read all of Hiaasen's books because his writing style blends sarcastic wit, twisted humor, outrageous characters, and political muckraking with an environmental message. 

          Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida.  He started writing for the Miami Herald in 1976 as a general assignment reporter; today he is an award-winning investigative reporter.  Some of his recent columns covered Mark Foley's pedophile sex scandal and an investigation of the political pork generated in the name of "Homeland Security."

          But deep down Hiaasen is a realist.  He lives in the environmental nightmare greed has created in his city and state.  While still trying to make the world a better place through his journalistic efforts, Hiaasen fully understands what he is up against.  Big bucks and back room political agendas keep winning out.  So Hiaasen gets justice the only way he knows how - in his novels.

          "Sick Puppy" is no exception.  Within a few pages Stoat is being chased down the interstate by Twilly Spree after Stoat carelessly tosses a Burger King Hamburger carton out the window of his souped-up Range Rover.

            Spree, a wacko millionaire who hates litterbugs, makes it his mission to teach Stoat the error of his ways.  The humorous lessons involve dung beetles and a garbage truck full of trash that is mysteriously dumped into Stoat's second car, a BMW convertible.

          However Stoat, a slow learner, continues littering Florida's highways.  Spree justifies breaking into Stoat's house because he needs to know what makes the man tick.  That's where he encounters a Labrador retriever, and a wall covered with the heads of endangered animals.  Listening to Stoat's answering machine messages he also learns Stoat is a lobbyist up to no good.

          Hiaasen always loads his books with despicable politicians and developers.  There's governor Dick Artemus, a Toyota salesman who doesn't mind receiving gifts from developers.  And Robert Clapley, a developer with a weird Barbie doll fetish, who made his millions running drugs before turning to his current "honest" occupation of paving the Florida coast.  And then there is Representative Willie Vasquez-Washington who successfully manipulates equal opportunity laws to make a bundle. 

          For additional laughs Hiaasen creates a prostitute who only beds Republicans.  He also resurrects a character from a previous book, Clinton Tyree, an ex-governor who became so sick of the political system that he headed out to live in the mangroves, inflicting damage to the system from his hide-out whenever possible.

          All of these characters become entangled in a plot to develop Toad Island, one of the few pristine places left in the state.

          Blogger fans of Hiaasen spend their time trying to figure out who the "Sick Puppy" is in this story.  Some think the obvious choice is Boodle, the black lab owned by Stoat, others believe it is Spree.  But the title may refer to the current system wherein politicians and developers involved in an orgy of greed build communities with little regard for the natural environment.  A few examples of which are: New Orleans, a city constructed below sea level, Colorado front range cities developed without adequate water supplies, and, of course, Florida where swamps were drained and mangroves destroyed all in the name of progress.

          Read "Sick Puppy" and decide for yourself.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
Article Copyright © 2006 Bluestack Consulting, Inc.
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