A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses.
Today his column appears on most Sundays in The Herald’s opinion-and-editorial section, and may be viewed online at www.herald.com.
Hiaasen began writing novels in early 1980s with his good friend and fellow journalist, William D. Montalbano. Together they wrote three mystery thrillers – Powder Burn, Trap Line and Death in China – which borrowed heavily from their reporting experiences.
Tourist Season, published in 1986, was Hiaasen’s first solo novel. GQ magazine called it “one of the 10 best destination reads of all time,” though it failed to frighten a single tourist away from Florida. His next effort, Double Whammy, was the first (and possibly only) novel ever written about sex, murder and corruption on the professional bass-fishing tour.
Since then, Hiaasen has published Skin Tight, Native Tongue and nine national bestsellers – Strip Tease, Stormy Weather, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Basket Case, Skinny Dip, Nature Girl, Star Island and Bad Monkey. All the novels are set in Florida, for obvious reasons.
Hiaasen is also the author of several popular novels for young readers: Hoot, which won a Newbery Honor, Flush, Scat and, most recently, Skink – No Surrender, which introduces one of the wildest characters in his adult books to a teen audience.
The film version of Hoot came out in 2006. It was directed by Wil Shriner, and produced by Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall. Buffett plays a teacher in the movie, while the author himself makes a forgettable cameo.
Hiaasen has also written two nonfiction books. The first, Team Rodent, is a wry but unsparing rant against the Disney empire and its grip on American culture. In 2008 came The Downhill Lie, which chronicles Hiaasen’s ill-advised return to the sport of golf after a “much-needed” 32-year hiatus.
Together, his books have been published in 34 languages, which is 33 more than he can read or write. The London Observer has called him “America’s finest satirical novelist,” while Janet Maslin of the New York Times has compared him to Preston Sturges, Woody Allen and S.J. Perelman.
To prove he doesn’t just make up all the sick stuff in his books, Hiaasen has also published three collections of his newspaper columns, Kick Ass, Paradise Screwed and Dance of the Reptiles. All these volumes were heroically edited by Diane Stevenson.
For his journalism and commentary, Hiaasen has received numerous honors, including the Damon Runyon Award from the Denver Press Club and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
His nonfiction work has appeared in many magazines, including Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Time, Esquire and, most improbably, Gourmet.
One of Hiaasen's most well-known novels, Strip Tease, was turned into a major motion picture starring Demi Moore, and directed by Andrew Bergman. Hiaasen still believes that the Vaseline scene featuring Burt Reynolds is a landmark moment in American cinema.