Ask people anywhere in the country to name a Florida writer, and odds are they’ll say, “Carl Hiaasen.”
And then they’ll say, “I love that guy.”
He’s earned that fame and affection with two distinguished, parallel careers, one as the author of 15 bestselling satirical crime novels for adults and six books for kids, and the other as a take-no-prisoners journalist and columnist for the Miami Herald.
Come March, one of those careers will draw to a close.
The Herald announced Friday that Hiaasen will publish his last opinion column on March 14. Hiaasen has had a 45-year career at the newspaper, starting work there when he was 23 and soon joining the investigative reporting team.
He started writing his columns for the Herald a decade later. Their tone is suggested by the titles of the three collections of them published in book form: Kick Ass (1999), Paradise Screwed (2001) and Dance of the Reptiles (2014).
Florida native Hiaasen is a fierce protector of his beloved state, and in his columns he’s gone after more polluters, developers, grifters, politicians and grifting politicians than you can shake a python at.
People like that have hardly gone extinct, so it’s not like Hiaasen has run out of material. But writing, he told Herald reporter Andres Viglucci, can be “like giving birth to a porcupine.”
At age 67, he said, “It’s a good time to step away.”
But fans of his fiction will be happy to know he’s not going to stop writing books. “There are a lot of books and projects I’d still like to do, and I might as well do that now,” he said.
Hiaasen has been a frequent featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, most recently in 2020, and he always draws adoring crowds.
His novels, starting with Tourist Season in 1986, have always fed off and satirized the corruption and outrageousness he covered as a journalist. And they’re all about Florida, in all its weird glory.
The most recent, Squeeze Me, published last year, is set in Palm Beach and revolves around a massively corrupt, egotistical politician known only by his Secret Service code name, Mastodon.