A Fun Mystery Book on the Road Trip to Florida

The Great American Road Trip: Florida

Heron in Everglades

Destination: Florida

Book: Nature Girl, 2006, by Carl Hiaasen

I have a lot of serious, thoughtful books in my travel library. Carl Hiassen didn’t write any of them.

Hiassen’s books, like [amazon_link id=”B003156BDG” target=”_blank” ]Nature Girl[/amazon_link], are fun, quick reads with delightfully over-the-top characters. Oh, they do have  themes satirizing contemporary political foibles. One gets the feeling that Hiassen, a reporter and article writer, can let his opinions flow more easily in fiction about news items he might have covered as a journalist.

Quoting his web site biography:

Tourist Season, published in 1986, was Hiaasen’s first solo novel. GQ magazine called it “one of the 10 best destination reads of all time,” although it failed to frighten a single tourist away from Florida, as Hiaasen had hoped it might.

Sounds like I should be talking about that one, but frankly, I ran out of time to read another of Hiassen’s gems, so am reporting on a book that Ken and I chose to listen to in the car on a long trip a couple of years ago. (I checked Nature Girl out of the library to check details, because, frankly, Hiaasen’s novels don’t stick with you any longer than cotton candy.)

However, I do know that the book kept us giggling, and I’m not even going to try to tell you about the plot and multitude of subplots.  Well, all right, since you insist, the “girl” of the title plots to get even with telephone solicitors by taking one of them out into the wilds of Florida. She heads for Dismal Key with a couple of bizarre characters following her. There her little party (the phone solicitor guy and his girlfriend) run into a Seminole Indian who is trying to live in nature. That’s most of the entanglements, but you’re own your own to try to untangle them.

The book takes place in the 10,000 Islands area lying just outside the Everglades National Park, which is swampy and jungly and scary to most people. We visited the Everglades and found the area endlessly fascinating, except that the mosquitos came in such huge swarms that we had to run from car to motel room and then crank the AC down at night so the little menaces would fall asleep before we did.

Another recommended Florida mystery writer, Randy Wayne White wrote Sanibel Island, which I read while in Florida on my first visit several years ago.We had visited the delightful west coast of Florida, and loved Sanibel Island, so I grabbed his book. He focuses on the problems of over-development, and his characters are not quite as wacky as Hiassen’s. Between White and Hiassen you can travel all over Florida without actually setting foot in the state, although I’m not recommending that.

The Music Road Trip has a couple of suggestions for music from the non-touristy parts of Florida today, Jeanie Fitchen and Del Suggs for your listening pleasure on the road trip.

A previous post about Florida talked about the grand hotel built by a railroad magnate in Tampa.Two other Florida writers I like: Ernest Hemingway (he had a house in Key West which you still can visit) or Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote her autobiography, Dust Tracks on the Road about growing up in Florida and collected folk tales from people in her small town. You can read both in the American Library edition that I talked about earlier.

Photo from Flickr with Creative Commons License. Please click on the photo to see more about the photographer.  I have included a link to Nature Girl so you can buy it at Amazon.  Every purchase helps keep A Traveler’s Library going. Would you believe 109 clicks went to Amazon from my site this month and nobody bought anything?Hmmmm…..

What have you read about Florida? And I’m looking for recommendations for Arkansas and Illinois, if you’d like to play along.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

12 thoughts on “A Fun Mystery Book on the Road Trip to Florida

  1. I looked it up…Rose Wilder Lane wrote a fictional short story entitled “Innocence” in 1922, loosely based on her family’s stay in Westville Florida.

  2. yes, that’s Buchanan, and as Richard points out, she’s written good non fiction about her days as a Miami crime reporter as well.

    one of my favorite movies about Florida is an older one, filmed in the 1950s, and therefore sort of dated, to say the least, but still… it’s called Beneath the 12 Mile Reef, set in Tarpon Springs.

  3. Oddly, I came to like Hiaasen through my daughter and his children’s books first. He is smart and clever and a good writer.

    1. Well, having read Hiassen’s books for adults, I can totally understand that kids (particularly about 4th or 5th grade would love his children’s books. Whacky sense of humor, as Frugal Kiwi mentions. Thanks everybody for the additional Florida suggestions. I guess I’ll have to take a look at Mississippi Masala just to see why a book about Florida is named for another state.

  4. I thought surely you were going to spotlight Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who wrote her Pulitzer prize winning book, The Yearling, while living at Cross Creek in Florida.

    Surprise! You chose Carl Hiassen. Skinny Dip is my favorite of his books.

  5. I love Hiaasen’s work, but you do need a certain sense of humour to enjoy it. The sort of sense of humour that is amused by a road kill-eating ex-governor, for instance. Yep, that would be me.

  6. Speaking of Edna Buchanan, check out her “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face.” These are stories from her Miami Herald days. -r

  7. Can’t think of anything specific I’ve read about Florida. But I’d imagine reading these made your trip a whole lot more interesting.

  8. My favorite book about Florida is “Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws and the Demise of an American Dream” by Dennis Covington. I have relatives that live in the panhandle, but by and large this has been my impression of Florida (Sorry guys). Another Florida reference is from Laura Ingalls Wilder! Laura, Almanzo and Rose lived in Florida for a short time in 1891. Rose described the experience in a short story. -r

    1. Richard: Another interesting book recommendation and how in the world did you come up with the obscure Laura Ingalls Wilder reference? Kerry: Yes, I heard Edna Buchanan speak once, I think. Isn’t she the news paper crime reporter who turned mystery writer? But like I said, I was taking the easy way out with a book I”d already read.

  9. not a Hiassen fan here. do you know Edna Buchanan’s mysteries? set mainly in Miami and other southern parts of the state.

    north Florida, though, is very different. so I’d suggest that while you do travel where most people go or think of when they think of the state through the books you’ve chosen, you do not travel quite all over Florida. not saying you should, just offering a reminder.

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