Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayhem in Florida Politics? Who'd Have Thunk It, S.V. Date?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayhem in Florida Politics? Who'd Have Thunk It, S.V. Date?

Article excerpt

Title: Black Sunshine

Author: S.V. Date

Data: Putnam, 320 pages, $24.95

Review by Tom Szaroleta

It's pretty much impossible to read a review of one of Tallahassee journalist S.V. Date's novels without seeing comparisons to Carl Hiaasen, the current dean of Florida novelists.

Brace yourselves, then, because here comes another one: Hiaasen's got nothing on this guy.

Date's previous novels have been satirical looks at auto racing (Speed Week), Big Tobacco (Smoke Out) and amusement park/land development companies (Deep Water), each more fun than the last. So how could a guy who loves to skewer Florida institutions -- and holds a day job a political reporter for the Palm Beach Post, no less -- possibly pass up a topic as juicy as Florida politics?

Date has populated Black Sunshine with more party goons, bimbos, eco-terrorists, ruthless manipulators, power-hungry politicians and sleazy oil executives than you can shake a butterfly ballot at.

Date takes several characters who seem eerily familiar to anyone who has been following Florida politics over the past few years -- the brothers following Daddy's footsteps into big-time politics, the secretary of state who is obsessed with her appearance -- and pumps up the absurdity factor, if such a thing is possible.

At least Date resists the temptation to name one of his characters Chad.

Particularly noteworthy is the power-hungry secretary of state who takes her plastic surgery to such lethal extremes that anyone casting a new James Bond film would probably consider her too outrageous.

The story revolves around an effort to steal an election so a statewide ban on off-shore oil drilling can be lifted. When an honest, qualified guy becomes the early front-runner in the governor's race, he mysteriously disappears at sea. The Republicans turn to the Billings brothers: Percy, who has worked his way up through the ranks, kept a clean record and did all the things a good candidate should do; and Bub, who has goofed off his whole life and failed in one business venture after another before becoming the Outdoor Furniture King of the Southeast. …

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