Naked Came the Manatee, Carl Hiaasen editor

Cover ImageFinished 1-17-09, rating 2.5/5, fiction, pub. 1996

This novel is a serial collaborataion of 13 of South Florida’s best writers and was originally written for The Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine.  David Barry writes the first chapter, passes it off to Les Standiford, Paul Levine, Edna Buchanan, James W. Hall, Carolina Hospital, Evelyn Mayerson, Tananarive Due, Brian Antoni, Vicki Hendricks, John Dufresne, Elmore Leonard, and Carl Hiaasen plays clean up in the last chapter.  A few of the authors’ serial characters show up- Buchanan’s Britt Montero, Standiford’s John Deal, and Levine’s Jake Lassiter.

A 102 year old woman rescues a man from the bay and he is in possession of a canister with shocking contents.  The canister is one of a pair, both containing the head of Fidel Castro.  There are chases, murders, confusion, and a multitude of characters, including Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro.  And there is a very introspective manatee in the bay named Booger, who thinks of the 102 year old grandmother as his ‘ma’. 

This is an interesting experiment, but it is a hot mess of a novel.  There are characters that move in and out of the story with little or no explanation, each author wanting to add something new instead of trying to build on what’s there.  The last chapter where Carl Hiaasen tries to explain everything is pretty funny considering what he had to work with.  It was wacky in a good way, but it was probably best suited to it’s original form, as a weekly magazine installment.

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