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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "Native Tongue" by Carl Hiaasen
By Milton M. Gross
Nov 18, 2012 - 12:20:36 AM

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Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen combines all the weirdness, horror, mystery, humor, sex and an unexpected conclusion that are typical of his books. Milt Gross photo.
Carl Hiaasen, journalist and author, is one of my two favorite writers of ridiculously mysterious, hilarious, and disgusting mystery novels that take place in Florida.*

My other favorite is Dave Berry, another Florida journalist who writes the same kind of stuff. And is just as hilarious.

This Fawcett Crest Book from Ballantine Books published in 1992 is only one of Hiaasen's 13 adult fiction works. With another writer, he did three more, four young adult fiction, a short story, and four non-fiction pieces. One of his books, Strip Tease, was also produced as an audiobook, according to my knowledgeable source, Wikipedia.

This offering journalist/lauthor Hiaasen begins with a family renting a Chrysler LeBaron convertible for a trip, the kids count cars along the Florida highway, and Dad, Terry Whelper, says, "And they're all rentals."

Pretty typical of those nice family trips, turning frightening quickly when a pickup passes them at about 80 miles per hour. "Without warning, something flew out of the truck driver's window and landed in the back seat of the LeBaron. Terry heard Jason yell; then Jennifer started to wail."

Dad pulls over, gets down on his knees, and peers under the front seat.

"The children heard him say, 'Holy shit,' then he leapt out of the car.

"'What is it?' asked his wife.

"'It's a rat,' said Terry Whelper. "The ugliest goddamn rat I ever saw.'"

And so it goes, from awful to strange to weird to a wild tale of a fun park, bad guys, good guys, mixed up guys, and strange gals, and sexy gals, protected species, unprotected species, fictitious species, all leading to a crazy unexpected climax.

I expected this to be as crazy as the other Hiaasen books I've read, and it lived up to my expectations.

It ends on a steamy Florida road with the hero and girlfriend stranded, and a police car coming onto the scene. But suddenly the cruiser's lights flash, and off it goes, without those needing to be rescued being rescued.

"Carrie laughed. 'Look what he threw out the window.'

She held up a gooey stick of insect repellent. The top-secret military formula.

"'Do me first,' she said. 'Every square inch.'"

The rest of the story? Well, it's pretty crazy, crime-ridden, funny, sickening, and...well typical Carl Hiaasen stuff.

I, of course, found mine in our town's recycling center. You can find your's online at, along with lots of other priced from $5.19 to $22.42. You might also try a bookstore, if any remain open.

But find it, buy it, and get ready for lots of laughs and gore.

Milt Gross

* Wikipedia states, "Carl Hiaasen was born in 1953 and raised in Plantation, Florida. Hiaasen was the first of four children and the son of a lawyer, Kermit Odell, and a teacher, Patricia. He entered Emory University just after graduating high school in 1970, where he contributed numerous satiric pieces to the school newspaper. In 1972 he transferred to the University of Florida, where he wrote for The Independent Florida Alligator. Hiaasen graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism.

"He was a reporter for Cocoa Today in Cocoa, Florida for two years, beginning in 1974, and then was hired by the Miami Herald in 1976, where he still works.

"Hiaasen lives in Vero Beach, Florida.

"After becoming an investigative reporter, Hiaasen began to write novels. His first three were co-written by fellow journalist Bill Montalbano: Powder Burn (1981), Trap Line (1982), and A Death in China (1986). Hiaasen's first venture into writing children's novels was Hoot, which received the Newbery Honor Award and was made into a movie. His second children's novel was Flush then Scat and lastly, Chomp. Hiaasen's young adult novels follow the theme of environmental issues. They also have his characteristic unique characters and some theme of adventure.

"Hiaasen is also noted as the person who discovered and helped bring the young adult fantasy novel Eragon to the public. The book, written by Christopher Paolini, was self-published and self-promoted by tour throughout the United States without much attention until it came to Hiaasen's notice in 2002. Hiaasen immediately recommended the novel to publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. The novel went on to become an astounding success, marking the start of a book series that sold over 30 million copies worldwide."

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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