Tag Archives: carl hiaasen

The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription by William Norrett – a review

VGPCover_03_17_12 I was very excited about reading this book as it was the first proper paper copy book I’ve been asked to review. Not only was it a real book sent from America in a jiffy bag (its always exciting getting a jiffy bag through the post) it was also on really shiny white paper which for some reason I found very pleasing.

However I am not someone who can talk myself into liking and therefore finishing a book just because I should. If I were, I would have read War and Peace, and actually finished anything by Stephen King. There are too many books I want to read to waste time on stuff that is hard going.

I’m pleased to say therefore that the Vanilla Gigolo Prescription was anything but hard work. It was excellent. The story, albeit only loosely fitting the description of crime, was focused on script writer Sean who is part of an improvisational acting group called the Vanilla Gigolo Prescription. They have spent years playing small venues around Hollywood, never making the big time. Now with four members, they started off as a five piece until Finn became a famous movie star and left them behind. He returns looking for help from Sean but having been stung by him before they are understandably wary. However Sean obviously does get involved (otherwise it would be a very short story) and gets in all sorts of trouble as a consequence.

I really enjoyed this book, and at points it had me laughing out loud. The story itself was fast moving, and just when you thought you knew where it was going it would switch direction. The main characters of Sean and Finn are both well drawn using flashback scenes, which eventually show why they have ended up the way they are. Sean is one of those people who just need a good wake up slap, however by the end of the story, thanks to his humour and wit I found I was really routing for him to make a go of it all.

All of the characters seemed very believable and unlike some books a lot of the conversations were the kind of mundane chit chat that tends to make up the majority of conversation between friends rather than specifically put in just to move the plot forward. There was a lot of the interaction between the group and I’ve learnt more than I ever needed to know about how improvisation groups warm up and practice, it’s not just getting up on stage! One thing I really enjoyed with this book was the style of writing. As well as the fact that it was all very quick witted and amusing, it was also very cleverly written. If one big word could be used instead of a small one then it was. This all added to the atmosphere of the book, and made it a very enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend it, especially to fans of Carl Hiaasen.


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Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen – a review

In a break from my usual reading fare (in that the author has absolutely no connection with the Harrogate festival) I have recently read Carl Hiaasen’s novel Tourist Season.

This was recommended by a friend, and was the first Carl Hiaasen I’d read, it was also the first one he wrote. The story is set in Florida and follows the fortunes of ex newspaper journalist turned group leader, Skip Wiley, who is trying to scare off tourists with a range of bizarre crimes. He is helped by an ex-football player, an American Indian, and a failed terrorist who has been kicked out of other gangs for being useless. They are tracked by another journalist who has turned private investigator, Brian Keyes.

It does need to be said firstly that this book was written back in 1986 and therefore did have a certain element of feeling a little dated. That is not a criticism however as I suspect the same could be said of a lot of books. (Unlike Red Dwarf which if any of you recently watched the start of series x, you’ll know is utterly timeless and works just as well no matter what the year!)

I enjoyed this book, but didn’t love it. It started well, the story was interesting and it picked up pace pretty quickly. I thought it was amusing in parts, and some of the more outlandish ways to commit crime did amuse me – especially when a pet crocodile appeared. I felt the book was a bit long though. Without giving away the plot in case there is anyone left that hasn’t read this yet, the final ‘twist’ could really have been done without.

It was called a ‘crime caper’ which is a pretty good description, although I think personally the emphasis was more on caper than crime. There wasn’t the element of ‘whodunnit’ that is found in my usual crime, it was more about the when and where. That did make for a nice change though, and I enjoyed the lighthearted aspect of the novel.

One slight criticism is that I felt some of the relationships seemed a bit odd. I read the book believing that Brian Keyes was a middle aged, balding old man, however further into the book he has a relationship with a young beauty queen. Either I was wrong in my assumption, or it was a bad bit of writing.

Living in York, which is a city geared around tourists, I can sympathise with the basis of this novel (although I’m not suggesting we scare them off with poisonous snakes) however I still couldn’t drum up much sympathy for any of the characters or their cause.

Many years ago I read Ben Elton’s ‘Stark’ and although my memory of that has faded, I remember enjoying it, and Tourist Season reminded me of that with its ‘eco’ message.

Overall I was a little disappointed with this book, but  I suspect my disappointment is mainly that I had very high expectations of a laugh out loud novel, whereas it was just an amusing crime story but as Rimmer would say ‘hey ho, pip and dandy’. I would try another of this authors books , as I certainly enjoyed it and would hope that like anything Carl Hiaasen’s novels improve with practice.

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Small crimes

People are always saying that things have shrunk over the years and on the whole I would agree. For example, last week I was given a wagon wheel. When I was a kid finding a wagon wheel in my lunchbox was like a lottery win (although obviously I wouldn’t have thought that exact thought at the time, as it was pre-lottery) The wheel of chocolate that was a wagon were massive and they were much favoured over the usual non branded chocolate biscuits. This time whilst it was very nice, it just seemed very small, more tonka toy wheel than wagon. You could dunk it in a cup of coffee and I’m sure you wouldn’t have been able to do that years ago.

Monster munch, there’s another micro snack. You can’t bite the toes of a pickled onion foot anymore, the whole thing is only one bite.

Music players have shrunk to Lilliputian standards from the big record players you played vinyl on, to the tiny mp3 players people use now. I saw a man walking down the road listening to a portable cd player the other day and even that looked huge.

Books however, I think are the complete opposite. This week I started reading a book by Carl Hiaasen that a friend lent me. Its an old paperback version and it seems tiny. I know it might just be because the last few books I’ve read have been hardbacks which by necessity are much bigger, but even compared to the paperbacks I’ve bought recently it is really small.

I like to think, in my romantic view of the world, that it is all because paper and ink is affordable now. In Georgian times they used to put a pineapple in the middle of their table to prove their wealth. Now we all want to show off our wealth by buying bigger books.

I suspect though that as with so many things, it’s just about greed. People want more for less, more clothes at less money, 300 channels on their tv, triple whopper double bacon burgers, and now to top it all off bigger books.

Of course there is a third argument, that this may just be a ploy by Amazon to sell their kindles. The bigger the books get, the more we are all going to hate carrying them around, hence the more e-books will sell. That would seem a clever bit of marketing! Luckily the smallness of the book isn’t affecting my enjoyment of Carl Hiaasen, although I won’t be buying any wagon wheels in the near future.

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