Author Carl Hiaasen says that writing his darkly funny suspense novels gives him a way to make fun of real-life villains without the constraints of journalism.
"You can get a lot of things out that obviously you can't put in a news broadcast or put in a news story," he said, "but you know they're true."
In an interview on The Daily Circuit, he told Kerri Miller that his work "was pretty angry from the beginning. I think that's where most humor comes from.
"I think anybody who writes satire has a sense of outrage and injustice. I would never put myself in the category of Mark Twin or Jonathan Swift, but those were pretty cranky guys. When you're doing social commentary that's supposed to be funny, it's got to come from someplace real and something you really care about."
Hiaasen also writes a weekly column for the Miami Herald, which he uses as an outlet for material that won't work in his novels, the latest of which is "Bad Monkey." Other books include "Strip Tease," "Native Tongue," "Sick Puppy" and "Tourist Season."
"Real life fuels the material for the novels," he said, "and it is psychotherapeutic to be able to — as I've done in novels — create the world's most horrible lobbyist. And this was even before Jack Abramoff came to light. That's the trouble. A lot of the stuff I write, years later something will surpass it in real life, in the headlines."
That's the risk, he said, of writing fiction about what he called "essential truths."
"There are essential truths to the politics in this country, essential truths about the environmental battles we've been fighting for 60 years — that you're up against the engine of greed, all the time," he said. "That's what you're fighting. And that's not just in Florida, it's anywhere. Any beautiful place that some people want to preserve, there are other people who want to pave it and carve it up and sell it off in lots. That's just the way it works, it's sort of the eternal struggle. And you win a few and you lose a few. And in Florida, sadly, mostly we've lost a lot."
He pointed out that pollution from sugar growers in Florida has its parallels in farm runoff in Minnesota.
"You have the same issues here in Minnesota, very much so. With fertilizer and phosphorus and nitrogen in the waters, dramatic damage to the water quality," he said. "You can be anywhere and run into these things."
Hiaasen described the national political scene as "incredibly shallow and incredibly cynical, more cynical than any journalist you'll ever find. The people who are running the national political parties are the most cynical people in the world.
"All you have to do is look at the last election cycle ... and see the kind of ads that were being run, which were really appealing to the true idiot class. The assumption was that Americans are idiots and they can't figure out who's lying and who's not lying. It's been the way it is for a long time, but the technology is such now, and the refinement of the art of putting these smear commercials together has reached some kind of new low, and it's not getting any better."
"One way to deal with it is to get mad and get up on a soapbox and scream and yell," he said, "and another way is to write books and columns that make fun of these people and lampoon them for what they are, for the fools they are."
Hiaasen was in Minnesota for an event at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HIAASEN AND 'BAD MONKEY':
Florida-Grown Fiction: Hiaasen Satirizes The Sunshine State
Each of Hiaasen's novels is set in a different part of the state, and his latest, Bad Monkey, keeps the tradition alive. The story is a typically funny and offbeat murder mystery set in Key West — full of colorful characters in outlandish situations. "I've always had a fond spot in my heart for Key West," he says. "It's very different from Miami. It's very different from the Panhandle, way different from Central Florida. ... It has always had laws of its own." (NPR)
Carl Hiaasen: 'My humor has always come from anger'
"The hardest thing for me, for anybody who writes satire or any kind of contemporary fiction, is to invent a scenario that doesn't eventually come true. Almost everything you write now, no matter how outrageous, comes true, and if you're writing satire you don't want to be behind the curve but ahead of it. (The Guardian)