Love those high-octane adventures? Thrillers that keep you reading late into the night? How about action with a sense of humor?
I love stories that take you around the globe in a desperate race to save the planet, but now and then I really appreciate fast action with a touch of humor—quirky characters, zippy lines, satiric twists, and, better yet, all three. The human condition is steeped in irony and humor, if you have the vantage point to see it. And the talent to write about it. Here are a couple of novels that may grab your funny bone as well as your addiction to adventure:
Nate Granzow’s dark comedies are brimming with action, surprise, and humor. A master at hero-sidekick dialogue, Granzow puts his characters through the ringer—deadly, unsolvable crises they escape only because the bad guys are even more misguided than the good guys or because, in the end, there’s a touch of courage in the downtrodden hero. Desperate schemes and deadly risks propel the plot in Get Idiota, a twisting tale of a reporter on his quest to interview the leader of a brutal drug cartel and foosball fanatic. When the reporter offers to write the leader’s glowing biography, the man accepts but pays the hero in bushels of marijuana. The reporter and his best friend flee the cartel compound, and on their way out, the friend rescues the cartel leader’s pet emu (Idiota), taking the large bird with them. Can they save their lives and their fortunes? Can they keep Idiota? Do they want to? Have fun with this one—I certainly did! And check out Granzow’s other dark comedy—Zimbabwe Hustle.
For action in the twin extremes of Miami Beach and the Florida Everglades, Carl Hiaasen is the master. Described as a satirist and mystery novelist, he is that and much more. His stories abound with wacky characters only slightly exaggerated from real life—a reading experience that’s hilarious and a little scary at the same time. Nature Girl features a “queen of lost causes” on a quest to save a loser-telemarketer, who she tricks into an “eco-tour” into the swamps. They are quickly castaways, lost on one of a thousand islands (no, not the salad dressing). A cast of characters follow them into the mire, where they encounter a Seminole recluse busy hiding dead bodies and fighting off a would-be groupie. Will the humans survive? Will the Everglades?
Elmore Leonard has written over forty “crime” novels, the most famous of which is probably his satire Get Shorty, a fictional story about a character pitching a fictional story to Hollywood, even as that fictional story (the novel itself) is still unfolding. Dialogue between radically different characters, living in radically different worlds, is the source of much of the humor in this work—conversations between the half-Italian mobster from Brooklyn and the granola munchers from sunny California. Plenty of barbs at Hollywood. When a loan shark goes to tinsel town to collect a debt, he pitches a movie idea that the Hollywood types love for its originality and grit, but the story is the one unfolding in the novel itself, real violence that the movie folks think of as scenes for the potential action/horror movie. Will the mobster become the next hot producer? Will life imitate art?