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. …