Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen
Originally published 1993
Warner Books, 1st printing, 1994
Genre: crime novel, satirical fiction
Synopsis & Review: Erin Grant is working hard for the money, dancing at the Eager Beaver in order to pay her divorce and custody lawyer after her felonious ex-husband got her fired from her position as a secretary for an FBI agent. One night at the club, a Florida congressman named David Dilbeck attempts to brain a young man having a bachelor party with a Korbel bottle, and from then on, Erin is increasingly entangled in political and personal machinations. Blackmail, murder, and graft all pursue a young woman fighting desperately to protect her young daughter and herself.
Strip Tease is the only Hiaasen book I’ve read, and I fortunately picked it up before the unfortunate movie based on it ever came out. (Yes, I have seen it, and no, it is not good. Nor is it a particularly faithful adaptation.) There is a great deal of black humor and Hiaasen seamlessly interposes political, economic, and personal backstory throughout the narrative. Erin is personable and a very realistic, human young woman; the sympathy she arouses throws the menacing and corrupt characters around her into sharp relief. Also lively and humorous are the many secondary and tertiary characters, particularly the inhabitants of the Eager Beaver and homicide detective Garcia (decidedly not “clueless” as the cover suggests). Though ludicrous at times, Dilbeck and his handlers are also profoundly disgusting and venal creatures, but Hiaasen manages to keep them just this side of caricature. Overall, Strip Tease is an entertaining light read.
Cover: Well, I am fond of hot pink, and the 3-D pasties were a nice touch, but it otherwise left me cold. Later covers I’ve seen seem a little better, still loud and brash, but more aesthetically pleasing.
To quell employee unrest at the Eager Beaver, it was Orly’s custom to pound on the desk and invoke the Mafia. He would brag of lifelong bonds with Angelo Bruno, Nicky Scarfo, Fat Tony Salerno and other famous gangsters whose names he’d clipped from crime magazines. He would talk of blood oaths, and the certain death awaiting those who violated them. Orly’s erformance usually had the desired effect of staunching demans for pay raises, health benefits or the slightest improvement in work conditions at the club. In truth, he had no connections whatsoever to organized crime. The mob wasn’t interested in the Eager Beaver because strip joints got too much heat from police. Orly heard this first-hand fromt he only Mafioso he’d ever met, a loan shark on trial for breaking the thumbs of a delinquent Chrysler salesman. Orly had gone to court as personal research, to learn how the mob actually operated. During a recess, he approached the loan shark and struck up a friendly conversation. When Orly asked if the loan shark knew anyone in the market for a nude dance club, the man frowned and said no fucking way, there’s too much heat. Now video arcades, the mob guy said, that’s a whole other deal. A video arcade would be a very attractive investment. Orly was disappointed, but out of politeness he hung around to hear the verdict. Not guilty, as it turned out.