Nature Girl

( 102 )

Overview

From "the funniest important writer in America" (Miami Herald) comes a tale that is gleefully zany and incisively sharp and now available in trade paperback for the first time.

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Nature Girl

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Overview

From "the funniest important writer in America" (Miami Herald) comes a tale that is gleefully zany and incisively sharp and now available in trade paperback for the first time.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Carl Hiaasen's novels invariably test the talents and challenge the sanity of synopsis writers. The zany plot knot of Nature Girl features a headstrong "queen of lost causes," an obnoxious telemarketer and his spouse, a particularly persistent sexual harasser, a former drug runner ex-husband pursuer and a failed alligator wrestler. Shaken vigorously and adding a pinch of salt, these critters produce an uproariously funny whodunit.
Publishers Weekly

Like the prolific animal and insect life of the Everglades, Hiaasen's latest contains a cacophony of voices that clash with one another yet come together in the end to form an unique world. Hiaasen's novels compare favorably to the films of Robert Altman, as the author uses an ensemble approach rather than relying on one story. Adams is enthusiastically up to Hiaasen's hijinks, finding the right note for every character. Particularly good is her rendition of 12-year-old Fry, who stretches his vowels for emphasis and makes every sentence sound like a possible question. Piejack, the local looney fishmonger, and Honey, a borderline personality unable to overlook any slight, are performed with twangy gusto. And then there are the Texans, Boyd and his reluctant girlfriend, Eugenie, who bring another set of accents into the mix. In a wonderful moment on the last disk, Adams hilariously reproduces the muffled sentences of a person who has had her jaws wired shut. Adams's brisk style is perfect for Hiaasen's witty romp through the Everglades. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 18). (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Honey Santana plans to save the world by taking tele-marketer Boyd Shreave and his brassy girlfriend to Florida's Ten Thousand Islands for some lessons in good behavior. But with Honey's possessive ex-husband in pursuit and half-Seminole failed alligator wrestler Sammy Tigertail causing trouble, civility goes out the window. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hiaasen's latest heroine is mad as hell, at least when she's off her meds, and she's not going to take it anymore. When a telemarketer who's interrupted dinner with her son Fry to peddle waterlogged Florida real estate responds to her gentle reproof with obscenities, Honey Santana, deciding he needs to be taught a lesson, sets out to entice Boyd Shreave to the Everglades to give him a taste of his own medicine. She lures both Boyd and his colleague and mistress Eugenie Fonda to Dismal Key, where she proposes to give them a comprehensive immersion in unspoiled Florida. For better or worse, though, she's picked a week when Dismal Key is overrun with other loonies. Sammy Tigertail has come at the behest of the late Jeter Wilson, whose spirit has been nagging him ("This was the worst vacation I ever had") ever since Sammy dumped his body into an obliging swamp. Theodore Dealey is a private eye hoping to get photos of Boyd and Eugenie in flagrante for Boyd's wife, whose interest in the affair has gone way beyond divorce. Louis Piejack, the rancid ex-boss who groped Honey and lived to regret the sequel, is positive she has the hots for him. Perry Skinner, vice mayor of Everglades City, takes a proprietary interest in both Honey, since he used to be her husband, and Fry, since he used to be his father. Members of the First Resurrectionist Maritime Assembly for God are waiting for the Messiah to make landfall. FSU undergraduate Gillian St. Croix, who just wants to have fun, is about the only cast member to get her wish. For once, the characters are funnier than their exhaustingly unpredictable interactions. The result is less satire than usual from Hiaasen (Skinny Dip, 2004, etc.), and more RubeGoldberg farce. First printing of 600,000. Agent: Esther Newberg/International Creative Management (ICM)
From the Publisher
“Hiaasen [is] king of the screwball comedies . . . Nobody escapes unscathed in this web of hilarious stories that intertwine and bisect each other like a nest of vipers . . . The charismatic, animated characters deliver lines that will bring tears of laughter to even the most jaundiced readers . . . This is top-notch storytelling by a truly original comic novelist.”
–Clayton Moore, Rocky Mountain News

“A big-hearted and deeply funny book . . . All of Carl Hiaasen’s obsessions are on full-tilt boogie.”
–Adam Woog, Seattle Times

“A whole lot ‘Survivor,’ a little bit ‘The Tempest,’ with a pinch of Laurel and Hardy . . . Hiaasen is always good for a number of laugh-aloud scenes and lines . . . His ear is pitch-perfect. The dialogue sings in Nature Girl.”
–Alan Michael Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Hiaasen once again makes the case that life in his backyard really is more absurd than in ours . . . Nature Girl deserves the laughs it will get, from sea to shining sea.”
–Jane H. Furse, New York Daily News

“A breeze of a read, full of the usual Hiaasen whimsy.”
–Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Hiaasen’s arch potboilers, pitched in the low latitudes of Florida and the lower strata of human evolution, revolve around a few solid observations about the species: in a fallen world, damaged people will sometimes do noble things; and heels will always be heels. Hiaasen’s campfire voice, perpetually amused by the resourcefulness with which his characters reaffirm his opinion of human nature, provides a core of truthiness . . . [His] wasteland is as retributive as Cormac McCarthy’s, but funnier . . . Honey is a classic Woman in Jep, of the sort Hollywood seems to have abandoned . . . Hiaasen’s pacing is impeccable, and the scenes follow one another like Lay’s potato chips . . . I purred warmly through the novels’ twists and further twists . . . An entertaining ride.”
–John Leland, New York Times Book Review

“Hiaasen isn’t just Florida’s sharpest satirist–he’s one of the few funny writers left in the whole country . . . I think of him as a national treasure [and] I have yet to be disappointed. Nature Girl, Hiaasen’s latest, keeps his string going in fine fashion . . . Hiaasen is not just a good comic writer. He’s just a good writer.”
–Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“Just sit back and watch as Carl Hiaasen, with his customary flourish, spins a glittering magic wheel and comes up with another set of characters only he could create . . . The book is an island romp.”
–Carolyn See, Washington Post Book World

“When he’s in good form, Hiaasen, like Elmore Leonard, shouldn’t be missed. Nature Girl is one of his better efforts . . . As usual, Hiaasen throws his colorful characters into an increasingly frenetic mix, and the fun lies in watching how, or if, they’ll manage to extricate themselves. One reason Nature Girl works so well is the fact that much of the action is confined to a single island, allowing the characters to intermingle and weave in and out of view.”
–David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle

“Winter reading needn’t be without comic hijinks . . . Nature Girl is a hilarious romp through the Everglades led by a bipolar divorced mom named Honey Santana, who cooks up a baroque plan to get back at a rude telephone solicitor.”
–Jonathan Miles, Men’s Journal

“As depicted by the deft pen of Carl Hiaasen, ecoterrorism is not only justified, it’s hilarious . . . He’s at it again in his distinctive, madcap style . . . [A] breakneck narrative.”
–Clea Simon, Boston Globe

“Hilarious . . . A lifelong resident of the Sunshine State, [Hiaasen’s] novels have always addressed the state’s ecological and social ills with scathing satire, ironic comeuppance and an ever-evolving sensibility . . . Everybody’s airport-reading favorite flies high again.”
–Dan Lopez, Time Out New York

“Zapped during dinner by a telemarketer peddling Florida ‘ranchettes,’ Honey Santana doesn’t just go postal, she devises a get-even scheme of demented brilliance . . . in the kind of Floridian follies on which Hiaasen owns the franchise . . . The writing is never less than amusing.”
–Pam Lambert, People

“Using his trademark dry, wry humor, Hiaasen shows how bad behavior tears the fabric of society . . . Nature Girl is typical Hiaasen, with a brisk story overflowing with satire, wisecracks and the fear of what society is becoming. The cast is one of his most accessible . . The main characters are as real as your next-door neighbors–with a few quirks . . . Highly entertaining.”
–Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Old fans and newcomers alike should delight in Hiaasen’s eleventh novel, another hilarious Florida romp [with an] engaging and diverse screwball cast . . . Hiaasen’s humorous touches and his all-too-human characters carry the book to its satisfying close.”
Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446400664
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 196,648
  • Product dimensions: 4.26 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida. He is the author of nine previous novels. He also writes a twice-weekly metropolitan column for The Miami Herald.

Biography

When one thinks of the classics of pulp fiction, certain things -- gruff, amoral antiheroes, unflinching nihilism, and a certain melodramatic self-seriousness -- inevitably come to mind. However, the novels of Carl Hiaasen completely challenge these pulpy conventions. While the pulp of yesteryear seems forever chiseled in an almost quaint black and white world, Hiaasen's books vibrate with vivid color. They are veritable playgrounds for wild characters that flout clichés: a roadkill-eating ex-governor, a bouncer/assassin who takes care of business with a Weed Wacker, a failed alligator wrestler named Sammy Tigertail. Furthermore, Hiaasen infuses his absurdist stories with a powerful dose of social and political awareness, focusing on his home turf of South Florida with an unflinching keenness.

Hiaasen was born and raised in South Florida. During the 1970s, he got his start as a writer working for Cocoa Today as a public interest columnist. However, it was his gig as an investigative reporter for The Miami Herald that provided him with the fundamentals necessary for a career in fiction. "I'd always wanted to write books ever since I was a kid," Hiaasen told Barnes & Noble.com. "To me, the newspaper business was a way to learn about life and how things worked in the real world and how people spoke. You learn all the skills -- you learn to listen, you learn to take notes -- everything you use later as a novelist was valuable training in the newspaper world. But I always wanted to write novels."

Hiaasen made the transition from journalism to fiction in 1981 with the help of fellow reporter Bill Montalbano. Hiaasen and Montalbano drew upon all they had learned while covering the Miami beat in their debut novel Powder Burn, a sharp thriller about the legendary Miami cocaine trade, which the New York Times declared an "expertly plotted novel." The team followed up their debut with two more collaborative works before Hiaasen ventured out on his own with Tourist Season, an offbeat murder mystery that showcased the author's idiosyncratic sense of humor.

From then on, Hiaasen's sensibility has grown only more comically absurd and more socially pointed, with a particular emphasis on the environmental exploitation of his beloved home state. In addition to his irreverent and howlingly funny thrillers (Double Whammy, Sick Puppy, Nature Girl, etc), he has released collections of his newspaper columns (Kick Ass, Paradise Screwed) and penned children's books (Hoot, Flush). With his unique blend of comedy and righteousness ("I can't be funny without being angry."), the writer continues to view hallowed Florida institutions -- from tourism to real estate development -- with a decidedly jaundiced eye. As Kirkus Reviews has wryly observed, Hiassen depicts "...the Sunshine State as the weirdest place this side of Oz."

Good To Know

Perhaps in keeping with his South Floridian mindset, Hiaasen keeps snakes as housepets. He says on his web site, "They're clean and quiet. You give them rodents and they give you pure, unconditional indifference."

Hiaasen is also a songwriter: He's co-written two songs, "Seminole Bingo" and "Rottweiler Blues", with Warren Zevon for the album Mutineer. In turn, Zevon recorded a song based on the lyrics Hiaasen had written for a dead rock star character in Basket Case.

In Hiaasen's novel Nature Girl, he gets the opportunity to deal with a long-held fantasy. "I'd always fantasized about tracking down one of these telemarketing creeps and turning the tables -- phoning his house every night at dinner, the way they hassle everybody else," he explains on his web site. "In the novel, my heroine takes it a whole step farther. She actually tricks the guy into signing up for a bogus ‘ecotour' in Florida, and then proceeds to teach him some manners. Or tries."

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    1. Hometown:
      Tavernier, Florida
    1. Education:
      Emory University; B.A., University of Florida, 1974

Read an Excerpt

One

On the second day of January, windswept and bright, a half-blood Seminole named Sammy Tigertail dumped a dead body in the Lostmans River. The water temperature was fifty-nine degrees, too nippy for sharks or alligators.

But maybe not for crabs, thought Sammy Tigertail.

Watching the corpse sink, he pondered the foolishness of white men. This one had called himself Wilson when he arrived on the Big Cypress reservation, reeking of alcohol and demanding an airboat ride. He spoke of ringing in the New Year at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which was owned by the Seminole tribe on eighty-six acres between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Wilson told Sammy Tigertail that he’d been sorely disappointed not to find a single Indian at the casino, and that after a full night of drinking, hot babes and seven-card stud he’d driven all the way out to Big Cypress just to get himself photographed with a genuine Seminole.

“Some dumbass bet me a hundred bucks I couldn’t find one,” Wilson said, slinging a flabby arm around Sammy Tigertail, “but here you are, brother. Hey, where can I buy one of them cardboard cameras?”

Sammy Tigertail directed Wilson toward a convenience store. The man returned with a throwaway Kodak, a bag of beef jerky and a six-pack. Mercifully, the airboat engine was so loud that it drowned out most of Wilson’s life story. Sammy Tigertail heard enough to learn that the man was from the greater Milwaukee area, and that for a living he sold trolling motors to walleye fishermen.

Ten minutes into the ride, Wilson’s cheeks turned pink from the chill and his bloodshot eyes started leaking and his shoulders hunched with the shakes. Sammy Tigertail stopped the airboat and offered him hot coffee from a thermos.

“How ’b-b-bout that picture you promised?” Wilson asked.

Sammy Tigertail patiently stood beside him as the man extended one arm, aiming the camera back at them. Sammy Tigertail was wearing a fleece zip-up from Patagonia, a woolen navy watch cap from L.L. Bean and heavy khakis from Eddie Bauer, none of which would be considered traditional Seminole garb. Wilson asked Sammy Tigertail if he had one of those brightly beaded jackets and maybe a pair of deerskin moccasins. The Indian said no.

Wilson instructed him not to smile and snapped a couple of pictures. Afterward, Sammy Tigertail cranked up the airboat and set out to finish the swamp tour at the highest-possible speed. Because of the cold weather there was practically no wildlife to be observed, but Wilson didn’t seem to mind. He’d gotten what he came for. Squinting against the wind, he gnawed a stick of dried beef and sipped on a warm Heineken.

Sammy Tigertail took a shortcut through a prairie of tall saw grass, which flattened under the airboat’s bow as neatly as wheat fields beneath a combine. Without warning, Wilson arose from his seat and dropped the beer bottle, spraying the deck. As Sammy Tigertail backed off the throttle, he saw Wilson begin to wobble and snatch at his own throat. Sammy Tigertail thought the man was gagging on a chunk of jerky, but in fact he was trying to remove from his doughy neck a small banded water snake that had sailed out of the parting reeds.

The creature was harmless, but evidently Wilson was in no condition to be surprised by a flying reptile. He dropped stone-dead of a heart attack before his Seminole guide could get the boat stopped.

The first thing that Sammy Tigertail did was lift the little snake off the lifeless tourist and release it into the marsh. Then he took Wilson’s left wrist and groped for a pulse. Sammy Tigertail felt obliged to unbutton the man’s shirt and pound on his marbled chest for several minutes. The Indian elected to forgo mouth-to-mouth contact, as there obviously was no point; Wilson was as cold to the touch as a bullfrog’s belly.

In his pockets the Seminole found the disposable camera, $645 cash, a wallet, keys to a rented Chrysler, a cellular phone, two marijuana joints, three condoms and a business card from the Blue Dolphin Escort Service. Sammy Tigertail put back everything, including the cash. Then he took out his own cell phone and called his uncle Tommy, who advised him to remove the dead white man from the reservation as soon as possible.

In the absence of more specific instructions, Sammy Tigertail wrongly assumed that his uncle meant for him to dispose permanently of Wilson, not merely transport him to a neutral location. Sammy Tigertail feared that he would be held responsible for the tourist’s death, and that the tribal authorities wouldn’t be able to protect him from the zeal of Collier County prosecutors, not one of whom was a Native American.

So Sammy Tigertail ran the airboat back to the dock and carried Wilson’s body to the rental car. No one was there to witness the transfer, but any neutral observer—especially one downwind of Wilson’s boozy stink—would have concluded that he was a large sloppy drunk who’d passed out on the swamp tour.

Having positioned the corpse upright in the backseat, Sammy Tigertail drove directly to Everglades City, in the heart of the Ten Thousand Islands. There he purchased four anchors and borrowed a crab boat and headed for a snook hole he knew on the Lostmans River.

Now a single coppery bubble marked the spot where the dead man had sunk. Sammy Tigertail stared into the turbid brown water feeling gloomy and disgusted. It had been his first day working the airboat concession, and Wilson had been his first customer.

His last, too.

After returning the crab boat, he called his uncle Tommy to say he was going away for a while. He said he wasn’t spiritually equipped to deal with tourists.

“Boy, you can’t hide from the white world,” his uncle told him. “I know because I tried.”

“Do we own the Blue Dolphin Escort Service?” asked Sammy Tigertail.

“Nothing would surprise me,” said his uncle. ...

At about the same time, in a trailer not far from the fishing docks, a boy named Fry looked up from his dinner plate and asked, “What is this crap?”

It was not an unreasonable question.

“Salisbury steak,” Honey Santana said. “It tastes better than it looks.”

“Did you get fired again?”

“No, I quit,” Honey said. “Now hush up and eat.”

As her son well knew, she resorted to frozen dinners only when she was out of work.

“What happened this time?” he asked.

“You remember Aunt Rachel’s Chihuahua? Yum-Yum Boy?”

“The one that got killed, right? Trying to hump a raccoon.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what Mr. Piejack is like,” Honey said, “only bigger.”

She took a small bite of the tough gray meat. It was gruesome but she managed a smile.

Fry shrugged. “So, did he make a move or what?”

“You could say that.”

Mr. Piejack was the owner of the fish market, and he’d been sniffing after Honey for months. He was married and had numerous other unsavory qualities.

“You know those little wooden mallets we sell at the register?” Honey said.

Fry nodded. “For cracking stone-crab claws.”

“Right. That’s what I whacked him with.”

“Where?”

“Where do you think?”

As Fry pushed away from the table, Honey hurried to explain.

“He grabbed my breast. That’s why I did it.”

Her son looked up. “For real? You’re not making this up?”

“My right breast, I swear to God.” Honey solemnly entwined her hands over the object of Mr. Piejack’s lust.

“What an a-hole,” Fry said.

“Totally. After I hit him, he started rolling on the floor, moaning and whining, so I grabbed a slab of tuna out of the cooler and shoved it down his pants. You know, to keep the swelling down.”

“What kind of tuna?”

“Yellowfin,” Honey said. “Sushi-grade.”

Fry grinned. “He’ll throw it back on the ice and sell it to some snowbird.”

“That’s gross,” Honey said.

“How much you wanna bet?”

“Hey, I could fix us some soup.” She got up and scraped the Salisbury steaks into the garbage can. “Minestrone or cream of tomato?”

“Whatever.” Fry scooted his chair back to the table. Sometimes he believed that his mother was on the verge of losing her mind, and sometimes he believed that she was the sanest person he’d ever met.

“Now what, Mom?”

“You know my friend Bonnie? She’s doing these ecotours where she takes tourists kayaking out to Cormorant Key,” Honey said. “She says it’s a ton of fun and the money’s pretty good, too. Anyway, driving home from Marco this afternoon I noticed a string of bright yellow kayaks crossing the bay, and I thought: What a heavenly way to spend the day, paddling in the sunshine through the mangroves!”

“Kayaks,” Fry said skeptically. “Is this the same Bonnie with the solar-powered sewing machine?”

“You sound like your ex-father.”

“He’s not my ex-father, he’s your ex-husband. Anyway, what’d I say wrong?”

“Oh, just the look on your face.” Honey took the soup pot off the stove. “What was I supposed to do, Fry? The man squeezed my boob. Did he deserve to be clobbered with a crab hammer in the testicles, or did he not?”

“How much does a kayak cost?”

Honey set two bowls on the table. “I’m not sure, but we’ll need at least two or three, for starters.”

“And where would you take these goobers on your ‘ecotour’?” Fry asked. “I mean, since Bonnie’s already locked up Cormorant Key.”

Honey laughed. “Have you looked out our window lately? Have you noticed all those gorgeous green islands?”

The phone began to ring. Honey frowned.

“Every night,” she said, “like clockwork.”

“Then don’t answer it,” her son said.

“No, I’ve had it with these clowns. Enough is enough.”

More than a thousand miles away, a man named Boyd Shreave stirred a latte and listened on his wireless headset to a phone ringing somewhere distant, in the 239 area code. A photocopied script lay on the desktop in front of him, but Boyd Shreave no longer needed it. After three days he knew the pitch cold.

Shreave was employed by Relentless, Inc., a telemarketing company that specialized in outbound sales calls to middle-income residential addresses in the United States. The firm’s call center was a converted B-52 hangar in Fort Worth, Texas, where Boyd Shreave and fifty-three other solicitors toiled in individual cubicles that were padded to dampen ambient noise.

In the cubicle to the right of Boyd Shreave was a woman named Eugenie Fonda, who claimed a murky connection to the famous acting family and in any case had recently become Boyd Shreave’s mistress. To the left of Boyd Shreave sat a man named Sacco, who was cavern-eyed and unfriendly and rumored to be a dot-com burnout. During work hours, Boyd Shreave rarely spoke to any of his co-workers, including Eugenie, due to the onerous calling quotas imposed by Relentless, Inc. They were on the phones from 5:00 p.m. to midnight, strafing east to west through the time zones.

It was a dreary and soulless job, though not the worst that Shreave had ever held. Still, at age thirty-five he realized that the feeble arc of his career had more or less flatlined during his six months in telemarketing. He probably would have quit were it not for six-foot-tall Eugenie, the ash-blond crest of whose head he could gaze upon at will in the adjoining carrel.

Boyd Shreave had been in sales since the age of twenty-six: corrective footwear, farm equipment, automobiles (new and used), fertilizer, herbal baldness remedies, high-definition televisions and exotic pet supplies. That he had failed to succeed, much less prosper, surprised no one who knew him. In person, Boyd Shreave was distinctly ill-suited for the craft of persuasion. Regardless of his mood there was an air of sour arrogance about him—a slant to one thin reddish eyebrow that hinted at impatience, if not outright disdain; a slump of the shoulders that suggested the weight of excruciating boredom; a wormish curl of the upper lip that was often perceived as a sneer of condescension or, worse, a parody of Elvis.

Almost nobody wanted to buy anything from Boyd Shreave. They just wanted him to go away.

He’d all but abandoned his ambitions in sales when, upon the occasion of his most recent firing, his future ex-boss had suggested that he consider telephone work. “You got the pipes for it,” the man had said. “Unfortunately, that’s about all you got.”

It was true that strangers were often unnerved when Shreave opened his mouth, so mismatched was his voice—smooth, reassuring and affable—with his appearance. “You’re a natural,” Eugenie Fonda had told him on his first day at the call center. “You could sell dope to the Pope.”

Shreave didn’t set the world afire at Relentless, but for the first time in his life he could honestly claim to be semi-competent at his job. He was also restless and resentful. He disliked the late shift, the confined atmosphere and the mynah-bird repetition of the sales script.

The pay blew, too: minimum wage, plus four bucks for every lead he generated. Whenever Shreave got a hot one on the line—somebody who actually agreed to a callback or a mailout—he was required by company policy to punt the sucker’s name to a floor supervisor. Shreave would have gladly forgone the shitty four-dollar commission for a chance to close the deal, but no such responsibility was ever dealt to rookie callers.

A woman picked up on the fifth ring.

“Hello, is this Mrs. Santana?” Boyd Shreave asked.

“It’s Ms.”

“So sorry, Ms. Santana, this is Boyd Eisenhower calling—”

Eugenie Fonda had told Shreave not to use his real last name with customers, and coached him on selecting a telephone alias. She said research had proven that people were more likely to trust callers with the last names of U.S. presidents, which is why she’d chosen “Eugenie Roosevelt” for herself. Initially Shreave had selected the name “Boyd Nixon” and in four days failed to churn a single lead. Eugenie had gently advised him to try a different president, preferably one who had not bolted from the White House with prosecutors camping on the doorstep.

“Eisenhower, like Dwight?” asked the woman on the end of the line.

“Exactly,” Shreave said.

“And your first name again?”

“B-o-y-d,” said Shreave. “Now, Mrs. Santana, the reason I’m calling this afternoon—”

“It’s not the afternoon, Mr. Eisenhower, that’s the problem. It’s the evening, and I’m sitting down to eat with my family.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Santana, this won’t take long. Or perhaps you’d like me to try back later.”

It was a line designed to keep the customer on the phone. Most people didn’t want a callback; they wanted to get it over with.

The woman’s voice began to rise. “Do you know how many telephone solicitations I get on this number? Do you know how aggravating it is to have your dinner interrupted by strangers every night?”

Boyd Shreave, unruffled, was already fingering down the call list. “Is Mr. Santana available?” he asked perfunctorily.

To his surprise, the woman replied, “As a matter of fact, he is. Hold on.”

Moments later, a new voice said, “Hullo?”

“Mr. Santana?” Shreave thought the person sounded too young, although there was always the possibility of a sinus infection.

“What’re you selling, mister?” the voice demanded.

Shreave let it fly.

“Mr. Santana, I’m calling about a unique real-estate opportunity that we’re presenting to specially selected candidates. For a limited time only, Suwannee Bend Properties is offering ten pristine wooded acres in north-central Florida for only $3,999 down—”

“But we already live in Florida,” the voice said squeakily.

“Yes, Mr. Santana, this valuable offering is being made exclusively to residents of the southwest coast.” Boyd Shreave glanced at his pitch sheet. “You live in the fastest-growing part of the United States, Mr. Santana, and in recent years many of your neighbors have gotten fed up with the traffic, high taxes, crime and big-city stress. A lucky few of them have relocated to beautiful Gilchrist County, the heart of traditional old Florida—a safe, peaceful and affordable place to raise a family. Instead of being packed like rats into a gridlocked suburb, you can relax on a lush, secluded ten-acre ranchette, not far from the historic Suwannee River. May I send you some printed information, or perhaps arrange for a qualified sales associate to call back at your convenience?”

The voice said, “A ranchette? Is that like a dinette?”

“No. It’s a real-estate term, Mr. Santana.”

“But we don’t live in a crowded suburb. We live in the Everglades,” the voice said. “There’s only five hundred and thirteen people in the whole town.”

By now, Shreave had figured out that he was speaking to a kid, and that his time was being wasted. He was itching to say something really snide, but he had to be cautious because Relentless randomly monitored outgoing floor calls for “quality control.”

“Mr. Santana,” he said with exaggerated politeness, “would you mind putting Mrs. Santana back on the line?”

“I’m right here,” the woman piped in, catching Shreave off guard. Obviously the bitch had been listening on another phone.

“Then I guess I don’t need to repeat our offer,” Shreave said thinly.

“No, you do not,” Mrs. Santana said. “We categorically have no interest in buying a ‘ranchette’ in Gilchrist County, wherever that might be.”

“Well, you have heard of the Suwannee River, right?”

“I’ve heard the song, Mr. Eisenhower. There’s no reason to be sarcastic.”

“That wasn’t my intention.” Shreave’s eyes drifted to the top of Eugenie’s head. He wondered if the fool listening on the end of her line would have ever imagined that she had a real pearl stud in her tongue.

Mrs. Santana went on: “The song’s actually called ‘Old Folks at Home’ and it was written by Stephen Foster, and you know what? He never floated way down upon the Suwannee, because he never set foot in ‘beautiful Gilchrist County’ or anywhere else in Florida. The man lived in Pennsylvania, and he got the name Suwannee River off a map and took out the u to make the syllables fit the music. By the way, Mr. Eisenhower, what is your supervisor’s name?”

“Miguel Truman,” Shreave said dully.

“And his supervisor’s name?”

“Shantilla Lincoln.”

“Because I intend to speak with them,” Mrs. Santana said. “You sound like such a nice, decent fellow—does your mother know what you do for a living, Mr. Eisenhower? Harassing strangers over the phone? Trying to talk folks on a fixed income into buying things they don’t need? Is this what she raised you to be, your mother? A professional pest?”

At that moment, Boyd Shreave should have calmly apologized for inconveniencing the Santanas, and then disconnected. That was the drill at Relentless: Never argue with people, never abuse them, never lose your cool. Do not under any circumstances give them a reason to complain to the feds.

Those on the receiving end of Boyd Shreave’s grating sales calls had at various times called him a deadbeat, a maggot, a polyp, a vulture, a douchebag, a cocksucker, a shitbird, a pussbucket and even a rectal ulcer. Never once had Shreave replied in kind.

And most likely he would have held his composure on this particular evening had Mrs. Santana not touched a sore spot by referring to his mother, who had in fact expressed bilious objections to his move to telemarketing; who herself had pelted him with unflattering names, each preceded by the word lazy.

So, instead of hanging up and moving down the list to the next call, Shreave said to Mrs. Santana what he had longed to say to his mother, which was: “Go screw yourself, you dried-up old skank.”

This was articulated not in Shreave’s friendly-neighbor telephone voice but in a corrosive snarl, emitted so loudly that both Sacco and Eugenie Fonda sprang up in their cubicles and stared at Shreave over the padded partitions as if he’d wigged out.

On the other end, Mrs. Santana sounded more wounded than angry. “What an awful thing to say, Mr. Eisenhower,” she said quietly. “Please connect me with Mr. Truman or Miss Lincoln right this minute.”

Boyd Shreave chuckled acidly and plucked off his head- set, thinking: No wonder they’re moving all the call centers to India—the poor saps there don’t know enough English to insult the customers.

Eugenie passed him a note that said “Are you fucking crazy?”

“Only for you,” Shreave scribbled back.

But as he sat there sipping his latte, he reflected upon the exchange with Mrs. Santana and conceded he had been harsh, considering that she hadn’t called him anything worse than a pest.

Maybe I am losing it, Shreave thought. Jesus, I need a vacation.

Honey Santana stared at the phone in her hand.

“What’d he say?” Fry asked.

Honey shook her head. “Never mind.”

“You know, there’s a do-not-call list. Why don’t you put our number on it? Then we won’t have to deal with these turds anymore.”

“Could you please not use that word?”

Honey already paid extra for a service that rejected calls from blocked phone numbers. To get around it, many telemarketing firms used rotating 800 exchanges, which is what Honey found when she pressed the caller ID button. She jotted the number down next to the name Boyd Eisenhower.

Fry said, “Thanks for the soup. It was good.”

“Welcome.”

“What are you doing now?”

“I’m calling the company to complain.”

“Like they care,” Fry said. “Mom, please, not tonight.”

The line was busy. Honey put down the phone and popped a Tic Tac. “I wouldn’t mind speaking to that guy again. He called me a truly awful name.”

“So, let’s hear it.”

“You’re only twelve and a half, Fry.”

“Hey, you let me watch The Sopranos.”

“Once,” Honey said ruefully. “I thought it was about opera, honest to God.”

“Was it b-i-t-c-h? That’s what he called you, right?”

Honey said no and dialed again. Still busy.

“You shouldn’t have brought up his mom,” Fry remarked.

“Why not?” Honey said. “You think she bled and suffered to bring him into this world, nursed him at her breast, bathed him when he was soiled, held him when he was sick—all so he could grow up and nag people in the middle of their suppers!” Honey shook a finger at her son. “You ever take a lame-ass job like that, I’m writing you out of my will.”

Fry glanced around the double-wide as if taking inventory. “There goes the trust fund,” he said.

Honey ignored him and dialed again. Another busy signal.

“Maybe his mom’s a pest, too. Ever thought of that?” Fry said. “Maybe he was raised by pests and he just can’t help the way he is.”

Honey slammed the phone on the kitchen table. “For your information, he called me a shriveled-up old skank.”

“Ha!” Fry said.

“That’s funny to you?”

“Sort of.” Fry had never mentioned that his friends considered her the hottest mom in town. He said, “Come on—you’re not old, and definitely not skank material.”

Honey Santana got up and started banging dishes around the sink. Fry wondered when she was going to wind down—sometimes it took hours.

“What is it with men?” she said. “First Mr. Piejack wants to jump my bones and now this person I don’t even know tells me to go screw myself. My day starts with dumb animal lust and ends with rabid hostility—and you wonder why I don’t date.”

Fry said, “Hey, did Aunt Rachel ever get another dog?”

“Don’t you dare change the subject.” Again, Honey snatched up the phone and started punching the buttons.

“Mom, you’re wasting your time. You’ll never get through to that creep.”

She winked at him. “I’m not calling the 800–number. I’m calling my brother to have him trace the 800–number.”

“Oh wonderful,” said Fry.

“And don’t roll your eyes at me, young man, because—oh, hello. Could you ring Richard Santana please?” Honey covered the mouthpiece. “I will most definitely find this person,” she whispered emphatically to her son, “one way or another.”

Fry asked, “And then what, Mom?”

She smiled. “And then I’ll sell him something he can’t afford. That’s what.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 102 )
Rating Distribution

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(30)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 102 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An amusing slap stick thriller

    In Florida, the tourist Jeter Wilson died of a heart attack following a snake bite leaving Everglades airboat owner Sammy Tigertail stuck with disposing the body, which he does in one of the swamps. At about the same time that Sammy struggles with the corpse, Honey Santana is irate with telemarketing realtor pitchman Boyd Shreave, who made ugly obscene sexual comments when she rejected his pitch.---------------- Honey decides to get even with Shreave as only she can. She begins a scheme to hurt him in the shorts enlisting her former husband Perry Skinner and her preadolescent son Fry and getting Boyd to come to Dismal Bay in the Everglades. He does with his girlfriend Eugenie Fonda at the same time private investigator Theodore Dealey working for Shreave¿s wife hopes to catch him with his shorts down. As she implements her plan, Sammy is caught in the middle still trying to get rid of Jeter¿s pesky spirit. Before anyone can blink all hell has come to the Everglades as these and others run amuck.----------- Less biting satire and more a zany face, Carl Hiaasen provides an amusing slap stick thriller that paints a wild picture of the Everglades in which the two legged animals are the beasts. The story line loosely contains a plot of revenge at it core though myriad of subplots converge because everyone is at the wrong place at the wrong time. The cast is classic comedy with people tripping over one another all because Honey goes berserk when Shreave interrupts her dinner with obscenities from there it is all down hill as everyone wants to sell but not buy swampland.------------- Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fun from front to back!

    This was the first Hiaasen book I've red and he's captured my interest for sure. His writing style is so much fun and at the same time mood and meaning are injected into each word choice. It was a crazy plot with wildly concocted characters and just a good time to the very last page. Even with the lightness of the writing, there was still food for thought. Grab a book by this guy if you get the chance.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    HIAASEN HAS NO PEERS

    What's not to like about a book by Carl Hiaasen? His prose is tough yet tender, his satire bites then provokes smiles, he's totally original, his offbeat characters are over the top, and, thanks to him, the State of Florida is revealed in all its steamy, seamy splendor. He won me with 'Skinny Dip' and I haven't looked back since. With 'Nature Girl' we meet Boyd Shreave who is employed by Relentless, Inc. where he makes his living as a telemarketer. His mistress, Eugenie Fonda 'who claimed a murky connection to the famous acting family' is in the cubicle next to him, a script is in front of him, and he has an assumed name for calling purposes - Boyd Eisenhower. He'll rue the day that he ever dialed Honey Santana's number. Honey is a woman on a mission fueled by a rabid desire to rid the world of many adversities that have visited her, one of them being dinnertime sales calls. Her 12-year-old son, Fry, alternates between believing her to be tetched or the most wonderful Mom in the world. Her brother, Richard, is well aware that his sister 'sometimes reacted to ordinary situations in unique ways.' Nonetheless, he locates Boyd for her. Her plan? To sell him something he can't afford. Sure enough, Boyd takes the bait and soon Honey is escorting the telemarketer and his reluctant mistress on a kayak tour through the wilds of Ten Thousand Islands. She just intends to teach them a lesson or three. What she hadn't counted on is Piejack, her boss at the fish market, following her. Piejack is the kind of guy who thinks sexual harassment in the workplace is acceptable, and the object of his attention is Honey. Now, read carefully (this is Hiaasen) - Piejack is being followed by Honey's ex, Perry, and Fry. Dismal Key is a landing place for this parade, and it's there they find Sammy Tigertail, a half-white, half-Seminole former alligator wrestler who tried his hand at doing airboat tours. But, when his first customer died on board, he told his uncle 'he wasn't spiritually equipped to deal with tourists.' Precisely what he is equipped for is subject for conjecture. Hiaasen's cast of crazy characters garner laughs aplenty. His meandering plot is a playful perplexity, and every page is a reminder that this author has no peers. Long may he scribe! - Gail Cooke

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    Very Good

    Well worth the money and time! Real People, well almost all, funny, and really enjoyed it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2011

    Fun dialoge

    First book I've read from this author. Overall, it was an interesting read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2010

    Fun, but not Hiaasen's best

    The plot is just who is going to do what to whom before we get where we all know we are going long before we get there.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book for "light reading."

    This is the second book I've read by Carl Hiaasen. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for something light and funny to ready. It is fairly funny until at the end I thought it was absolutely hilarious in parts. I wish it had been that funny all the way through. I am hooked on his books now and I read them in between more serious books or in addition to more serious books. I plan on reading all of his books. He definitely has a quirky sense of humor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    VERY FUNNY!!!!!!

    HIAASEN WILL TAKE YOU ON A RIDE OF CRAZY AND FUNNY.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Chase away the winter doldrums

    If you can't go to Florida this winter, try reading about it in one on Carl Hiassen's adult comedies. This one is risqué and full of not-to-love characters, but the plot gave me plenty of good laughs. Hiaasen also gets in some commentary about the state of our 21 C. society and the dismal record of our country in regards to the treatment of native Americans. Really, he is a good writer. Comedy is not easy to do, and the mix of brutally true observations with the foibles of human nature is well done by Hiaasen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2007

    My first Hiaasen Read

    I loved this book and am glad I read it before reading some of the negative reviews. I enjoyed it so much that I am now reading all of his books. After reading some of his older novels, I can see a change that might be upsetting to some fans. I like variety. I love his humor, vocablulary, sarcasm, and the bizzarre....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    Honey Santana is an unforgettable heroine, and Lee Adams's narration of Honey's exploits is equally memorable. She imbues Honey and Hiaasen's other over the top characters with all their grit, determination, bravado, zest, and intensity. With 'Nature Girl' we again enjoy this author's trademark tough yet tender prose, biting satire, and total originality. Plus, thanks to him, the State of Florida is revealed in all its steamy, seamy splendor. He won me with 'Skinny Dip' and I haven't looked back since. We meet Boyd Shreave who is employed by Relentless, Inc. where he makes his living as a telemarketer. His mistress, Eugenie Fonda 'who claimed a murky connection to the famous acting family' is in the cubicle next to him, a script is in front of him, and he has an assumed name for calling purposes - Boyd Eisenhower. He'll rue the day that he ever dialed Honey Santana's number. Honey is a woman on a mission fueled by a rabid desire to rid the world of many adversities that have visited her, one of them being dinnertime sales calls. Her 12-year-old son, Fry, alternates between believing her to be tetched or the most wonderful Mom in the world. Her brother, Richard, is well aware that his sister 'sometimes reacted to ordinary situations in unique ways.' Nonetheless, he locates Boyd for her. Her plan? To sell him something he can't afford. Sure enough, Boyd takes the bait and soon Honey is escorting the telemarketer and his reluctant mistress on a kayak tour through the wilds of Ten Thousand Islands. She just intends to teach them a lesson or three. What she hadn't counted on is Piejack, her boss at the fish market, following her. Piejack is the kind of guy who thinks sexual harassment in the workplace is acceptable, and the object of his attention is Honey. Now, listen carefully (this is Hiaasen) - Piejack is being followed by Honey's ex, Perry, and Fry. Dismal Key is a landing place for this parade, and it's there they find Sammy Tigertail, a half-white, half-Seminole former alligator wrestler who tried his hand at doing airboat tours. But, when his first customer died on board, he told his uncle 'he wasn't spiritually equipped to deal with tourists.' Precisely what he is equipped for is subject for conjecture. Hiaasen's cast of crazy characters garner laughs aplenty. His meandering plot is a playful perplexity, and Lee Adams doesn't miss a nuance. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Sex

    Yummy in my tummy seeeeeexxxxx look at mark of athena for more sex

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2013

    To Talli

    Get the he<_>ll out of here. Btw im a girl i was just seeing if any of those anoying haters would come. Sure enough one did.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Very funny!

    This is a little lighter than his other books, but still very funny. I laugh out loud constantly at his twisted characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Good light reading. If you like Carl Hiaasen, you will like this

    This was my second Carl Hiaasen novel. I enjoyed it, but liked Skinny Dip better. The characters in Nature Girl were pretty wacky, but not as fully developed as in Skinny Dip. Hiaasen's knowledge of south and central Florida adds to the enjoyment. I found myself going to Google Earth quite a bit to get a visual of the points of reference in the book. Looking forward to my third read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Ignore wait

    Was that me?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2012

    yuck

    It took over a third of the book to get an idea of the story. Very psychodelic.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 16, 2012

    Nature's Belly Flop

    This was a book that was painful to read the first couple of chapters. Far-fetched, spacey, and annoying to say the least. I purchased the book for it was a bargain and had an attractive cover. However, do not judge the book by it's cover in being good. It was brutally tough to get the idea behind what the intent of the words were relaying and any sort of message to keep any intelligent being interested.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    Boring

    Like others I could not get into this book. Right away the character names annoyed me (Honey, Fry, Eugenie?!). And the plot was so far fetched, I mean come on, she gets rialed over a telemarketer calling during dinner time. I kept reading hoping something would improve, but it never did. This was the first book I read by this author and I definitely won't be reading any more.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    $19.27???!!!

    Why can I buy the paperback for this non new release book for less than $9 and this e-book is almost $20, are you kidding me?!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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