Star Island

Thursday, 14 October 2010

According to Carl Hiaasen, "You could fill a dump truck with all the hot young singers who can’t yodel their way out of a grocery sack. If you’re good-looking enough, and you can learn how to lip-synch, the sky’s the limit."

That's the starting point for Star Island, Hiaasen's first work of adult fiction (he does write in other genres) since 2006's Nature Girl.

Given the four-year interval and the fact I wasn't aware there was a new Hiassen on the horizon, it should come as no surprise to learn that the first thing Hughesy did on sighting it was to grab a copy off the shelf, and while Star Island isn't the best thing he's ever done it's still good enough to ensure that the reaction will be the same next time Hiaasen deigns to deliver another story dealing with the soft sleazy underbelly of southern Florida.

Long term fans will be giving themselves a conscious here we go again when actress Ann DeLucia, speeding through the rain on the way to Key West, swerves to avoid the hoary, drenched figure crouching on the center line .... lifting something wet in his hands. You just know this is going to be ex-Governor and eco-vigilante Clint (the Skink) Tyree, and Ann's immediately enlisted in another Skink vendetta against another perpetrator of ecological vandalism.

Which you'd expect makes a nice change from her regular gig as undercover body double for Cheryl Bunterman (aka Cherry Pye), a 22-year-old pop star of the barely legal slut variety with an indiscriminate appetite for drugs, alcohol, and sex on the verge of a comeback from another drug-and-alcohol disaster with a new album called Skantily Klad.  

Ann's role, as directed by arch-stage mother Janet Bunterman, record producer and label boss Maury Lykes and Botoxed-to-the-max twin publicists Lucy and Lila Lark, is to mislead the paparazzi into thinking Cherry is out and about when she's indisposed in a coma or rehab. At the head of the press crew is obsessed paparazzo Bang Abbott, who figures he'll make a killing from exclusive photos when Cherry finally succumbs to the inevitable eventual overdose. 

The problem is how to get those exclusive photos, and Abbott, under the misapprehension that he's hijacking the genuine article, kidnaps Ann, who's back on deck after the eco-vigilante bit. Discovering the truth about the situation, he arranges a swap of the two lookalikes for an exclusive intimate photo session, working through replacement bodyguard Chemo, the dude from Skin Tight who had his arm bitten off by a barracuda and now boasts an electric Weed Whacker for a prosthesis.

That's probably far enough into the gory details. Suffice it to say that the double-crosses and general mayhem are more or less on a par with most of the rest of Hiaasen's work. This story of vacuous celebrities, tabloid stalkings, spin control has all the regular Hiaasen ingredients and while it isn't his best, it churns along merrily enough. 

Not quite the best Hiaasen is still a fair way ahead of much of the rest of the field.

© Ian Hughes 2012