Fame & Fortune: Novelist Carl Hiaasen
Novelist Carl Hiaasen always kept his day job
Carl Hiaasen isn't one to sit idly by while fat-cat developers,
corrupt politicians and fast-talking flimflam artists despoil the land, water
and wildlife of his native Florida just to sell paradise piecemeal to sun-starved
Had he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather,
who established the first law office in Broward County in 1922, or his father,
also a prominent Fort Lauderdale attorney, Hiaasen might have fought the encroaching
blight through legal channels.
Instead, he recycles
the stranger-than-fiction news stories from his longtime day job as a columnist
for the Miami Herald into biting satiric novels that pummel the eco-marauders
with the one weapon for which they have no counter: public ridicule.
he's changed the names to protect, well, Hiaasen for one. But you don't need a
scorecard to recognize the corporate weasels (or rodents) that use any means necessary
to extract the juice and pulp from the Sunshine State.
is beloved not only for his righteous anger and moral equilibrium, but also for
the artful and fitting way he exacts vengeance on the self-serving depredators.
In his 1986 debut, "Tourist Season," he dispatched the baddies with
a rubber toy alligator down the throat. In subsequent outings, dung beetles and
even an amorous dolphin were put to creative uses. In his latest, "Skinny
Dip," let's just say you won't look at those roadside shrines to traffic
victims the same way again.
Bankrate checked in with Hiaasen
by phone at his home in the Florida Keys, where he lives with his second wife
Fenia and their two children (Hiassen's first son, Scott, is a reporter for the
Palm Beach Post).
As the son of a son of a lawyer, were you expected to become an attorney?
Hiaasen: I don't think it would have disappointed my father or my grandfather
if I had become an attorney. I think they would have been thrilled. But it was
pretty clear from a very young age that I loved to write and I didn't really see
where that ambition intersected with the law. My grandfather was a trial attorney
and he loved the drama of the courtroom and practiced until he was 90. My dad,
on the other hand, was a different personality and practiced probate and corporate
law, and he didn't look like he was having any fun anytime, so I don't think I
ever had law school on the radar.
Did you work as a kid?
Hiaasen: I started working pretty young. I started as a janitor at a veterinary
clinic when I was 12 or 13, and a little later I worked as a janitor at a day
care. I would rather work at the veterinary clinic than the day care, I can tell
you that. I also worked as a bank teller for a couple of summers.
Money responsibilities came at a very young age for you, right?
Hiaasen: Yes, I was 17 when we got married, and I had a kid when I was
18. That will teach you fiscal responsibility real quick because there's formula
to buy and diapers. There's not a lot of party time. I had to finish school and
I borrowed money from my father to do so. As soon as I went to work as a reporter,
I started putting a little aside to pay him back. I always tried to send him a
check every month, even though he didn't want me to; I felt that was the responsible
thing to do. Working at Cocoa Beach, I think I was making about $150 a week, back
in 1974. You didn't have any frills or travel or anything, but you went to work
in journalism knowing that. Anybody who thought they were going to get rich in
journalism was a moron, and that's true today as well. You go into it knowing
you're going to be underpaid, overworked and abused at almost every level of the