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Live at the Miami Book Fair with the most Florida man: Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen on South Beach in early 2020. Joe Rimkus Jr. Special to the Miami Herald
The Miami Herald
Carl Hiaasen joined. Sundial to talk about his new book, "Wrecker" at the Miami Book Fair on Nov. 18.

Sundial was invited to host a conversation at the 40th anniversary of the Miami Book Fair. One of the largest literary events in the world.

More than 250 people crammed into an auditorium over the weekend to hear us talk to one of the greats. And we wanted to share that day with you.

Our guest is the most Florida Man, Carl Hiaasen.

Hiaasen is the bard of Florida. He’s our conscience and our raconteur.

He kept politicians in check for decades as a Miami Herald columnist. He blasted the corporations and shady grifters. He used his gift to advocate for our beaches and the Everglades. And he does that with his books, too.

But you don’t read Carl Hiaasen's work because it’s good for you. You read his work because his stories are a delight.

Eleven of his novels with those two-word titles became national bestsellers. One of them, Bad Monkey, is coming soon to TV on Apple Plus. Your kids know his work, too. One-word titles, like Skink. And Hoot. (That was a movie, too.)

Hiaasen's got a new one-word title out, called Wrecker. It’s the story of a fifth-generation Key West kid, or a conch, who loves to fish and boat. His life takes a turn when he stumbles across a couple of smugglers in a stranded speedboat.

He draws inspiration from his childhood, part of which he spent in the Keys, before he moved out to the Broward suburbs.

"I've always wanted to just kind of set a novel there where the main character was a kid growing up there … and all he has is a little boat and a bicycle, which is all you need in Key West." he said. "It gives me a chance to sort of fantasize what it was. I mean, I grew up in West Broward County, which ... now is nothing but concrete and expressways."

Courtesy Julio Alvarez
Carl Hiaasen joined Sundial for a live show to talk about his new book, "Wrecker," at the 40th Miami Book Fair on Nov. 18.

It’s another young adult novel, but don’t get it twisted. Hiaasen’s writing in Wrecker is like any of his other work. It’s an Armani suit tailored for a child.

True to his journalistic background, the book gives a nod to the current events in Florida — smuggling vaccine cards, reconciling with a place's racial history and cleaning up iguana poop from cemeteries as a side hustle. And what can be oftentimes bleak news, he turns into an engaging story.

"One of the attractions of writing novels … you do get to write your own endings," he said. "The good guys win sometimes and you can make something hideous happen to the bad guys, which I enjoy more than anything. "

On the Nov. 22 episode of Sundial, we talk with Hiaasen about his work, growing up in Florida and why we've heard he’s a pretty tough guy to go fishing with.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
Alyssa Ramos is the multimedia producer for Morning Edition for WLRN. She produces regional stories for newscasts and manages digital content on WLRN.