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Crescent Blues Book ViewsAlfred A. Knopf (Hardcover) ISBN 0-375-41107-0

Basket Case, Carl Hiaasen's latest mystery novel, awash in pop culture, gurgles and swirls around rockers, old rockers, dead rockers and nubile wannabe female rockers, all viewed through the eyes of a death-obsessed and aging obituary writer, Jack Tagger.

Book: Carl Hiaasen, Basket CaseHiaasen, a Miami newspaperman, knows whereof he speaks when he speaks about newspaper politics, newsroom atmosphere, pecking orders and peckishness. He nails characterizations of overworked and ambitious editors, jealous colleagues, profit mongering publishers, go-nowhere obit writers and burned-out and jaded senior reporters who are facing the end of their careers. But even at the end, their elitist attitude precludes association with obit writers. Unless of course the obit writer, Jack Tagger for example, once a bridge burning investigative reporter himself, publicly humiliated the publisher. This one act earned him his inglorious title, lowly job description, and secret respect from his peers.

Yet, even obits offer a curious reporter fodder for fame. Tagger ruminates on the death of former rock star Jimmy Stoma, front man of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies. The rocker's untimely death in a scuba diving accident leaves behind a not-too-grieving, young, rock star widow who uses widowhood as a springboard to jumpstart her career. Too many unanswered questions and more dying rockers keep Jack searching. The search brings death to Jack's door, threatening Jack with his greatest fear -- becoming the subject of an obituary rather than the writer.

Hiaasen writes a mystery as laugh-out-loud funny as those of Janet Evanovich, but from a male perspective, with a flawed male protagonist and no gorgeous hunky bounty hunters. But I digress. Between the laughs, Hiaasen writes about fears that pester even the hardiest souls. He offers a few theories about life: "Fame enhances death, but death also enhances fame." About relationships: "You called me an onerous name…. We're making progress." And about priorities: "Toenails…all painted up like bright little orange and red gummy bears."

Promotion of Hiaasen's novel coincides with the release of Warren Zevon's CD, My Ride Here, which includes the Jimmy Stoma single "Basket Case." The book jacket invites readers to visit www.warrenzevon.com to hear it.

For more Hiaasen, check out his columns in The Miami Herald, a couple collections of his columns (Kick Ass and Paradise Screwed) or one his eight other novels.

Dawn Goldsmith

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