Florida Goes to Pot, and Vice Versa, in Novels

florida girl hbtv hemp beach tv 357Dave Barry has written a comic novel that features lost luggage, beaches, hapless tourists from Michigan, exotic animal life, drugs, wild mix-ups, laughable oldsters and the trademarked zaniness of Florida. Not at all coincidentally, Tim Dorsey’s new comic novel features these same ingredients, although Dorsey’s hapless tourists come from Wisconsin.

What is it about journalism in Florida that helped Barry (The Miami Herald), Carl Hiaasen (also The Herald) and Dorsey (The Tampa Tribune) segue into writing such funny fiction? And what is it that makes their material so similar? Even if you know exactly which of them wrote “Hurricane Punch,” “Tricky Business” and “Tourist Season” (Dorsey, Barry and Hiaasen), it’s hard to miss the overlaps in their humor. It’s also hard to complain about too much of a good thing.

Hiaasen, who still writes an opinion column, understandably delivers the most barbed, issue-oriented humor. Dorsey has political opinions too, but his specialty is one main character: Serge A. Storms, the self-appointed enforcer whose dialogue has been the best part of a string of novels about him. Here’s what Serge has to say in the latest, “The Riptide Ultra-Glide,” to the victim he is preparing to abduct: “Where do you want to go? I can’t make any promises because of my zany schedule. Unless they sell souvenirs. My weakness, but it could be worse. Actually it will be. Suggestions?”

Barry’s “Insane City” is about a Florida destination wedding, which is to say that it’s got the template of a movie: maybe “Hangover 6.” Once they get to Florida, the groom, Seth Weinstein, and his friends get lost and drunk in no time. Everything goes predictably and spectacularly wrong, even though, as the wedding planner puts it, “basically, the bride is coordinating the Normandy invasion, and the groom is remembering to zip up his fly.”

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