Nature Girl, by Carl Hiaasen

An hysterical romp of crooks and tarts by a delectably deranged imagination
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The Independent Culture

Boyd Shreave - a disgraced telemarketer, one-time salesman of orthotic footwear and the anti-hero of Carl Hiaasen's joyous new romp, Nature Girl - once made the news. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to be precise. The story, "Jury boots salesman's lawsuit", is paraded in full in the opening exchanges, before Hiaasen's cast of crooks and tarts wreak vengeful havoc in the Florida Everglades.

It is worth the entry money alone. "According to the lawsuit," it reads, "Shreave was making a sales visit to an elderly Arlington woman when he inserted a graphic orthotic device in one of his own shoes. While parading back and forth to show off 'the comfort and unobtrusiveness' of the item, Shreave allegedly stumbled over the woman's oxygen tank and ended up painfully straddling a potted cactus.

"He claimed that the accident resulted in 'irreparable cervical trauma' to his neck, and that the cactus needles 'grossly disfigured' his groin area, causing 'inestimable mental anguish, humiliation and loss of marital intimacy'. Attorneys for Lone Star Glide-Boots argued that the incident was entirely Shreave's fault because he'd mistakenly put a left-footed corrective wedge into his right shoe..."

Hiassen goes on. I could not. This novel, the author's eleventh, is so funny that in places the physics of simultaneously holding a book while suffering a seizure become irreconcilable. Our sympathies lie with Honey Santana, a mentally unstable and lusciously beautiful mother-of-one, who becomes so upset by Shreave's dinner-time sales pitch, that she decides to enact revenge. She is not Shreave's only problem. His wife, Lily, knows her pathetic husband is cheating on her, and hires a private detective to capture increasingly graphic evidence.

Then there's a Floridian lech called Louis Piejack, who tried his luck with Honey and had his fingers lopped off and reattached on the wrong stumps. And Sammy Tigertail, a ruminative half-Seminole Indian, kidnaps a college nymph called Gillian, who becomes perplexed when her captor doesn't try to "bone" her. All these miscreants wind up sharing the limited comforts of an uninhabited Everglades island, and mayhem ensues.

You couldn't make it up - except that Hiaasen did. Nature Girl, the product of a deranged imagination, combines the comedic energy of Molière with Mark Twain's lightness of phrase. And, as in all good farce, the women - even nonagenarian amputees - finish on top.

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