Saturday, September 04, 2004

Guardian Unlimited Books | Once upon a time in America

Guardian Unlimited BooksAmerica is fired up about this year's election like never before. Michael Moore fills cinemas, the candidates are at each other's throats, and the country's artistic community is taking to the streets. As protest reaches fever pitch, nine American novelists tell Robert McCrum of their hopes and fears for their nation's next chapter

Sunday September 5, 2004
The Observer

It is 9 August 2004, 30 years to the day that Richard Nixon left the White House in disgrace. Carl Hiaasen is fishing for baby tarpon in the shallow waters in front of his house on the Florida Keys. The bestselling author of Skinny Dip, Strip Tease and Stormy Weather remembers that day only too well. He had just started as a cub reporter with Florida Today, a local newspaper, and was assigned to do vox-pop interviews with Miami voters. 'You know,' he says, apropos of our conversation about American politics a generation after those momentous weeks, 'it's even worse now.' Hiaasen's lure snakes out across the water. There's a splash and a vicious swirl as the fish bite.
'Worse than - ?'

'Worse than Watergate.'

In the brutal humidity just south of Key Largo, with shiny, air-conditioned SUVs purring up and down the Overseas Highway beyond the house and wealthy summer trippers tucking into surf 'n' turf menus the size of small peace treaties, it is hard to imagine anything close to the creepy chill of Watergate, still less the creepy goons who perpetrated it, but here's the scoop: Carl Hiaasen is not alone.


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