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Bookmarks: Crazy good read

3 September 2014 By Laura Antonucci, Columnist No Comments

“Basket Case” is one of those gems you find unexpectedly. In this case, I was wandering around The Book Thing of Baltimore Inc. — a free book exchange that has all kinds of books — not expecting to find a whole lot. Then I saw this book jacket, glaring in all its lemon-yellow glory at me from the top shelf. I had to read it.

“Basket Case” is not my autobiography, as my coworker asked, but a great summer read with action, an unexpected romance and a man who was once a downtrodden reporter. Jack Tagger is middle-aged and works at a newspaper in Florida that is on the decline. Tagger is the deliberate thorn in his editor’s side when it comes to doing his job. He can bang out a solid obituary, but he wengages in petty tactics like writing seven lines when his editor asks for 10, or a full page when the editor doesn’t have the funding to print more than half. Or, he’ll go on a full-blown unauthorized investigation on how a former rock star suddenly turns up dead.

If “Basket Case” is a sample of how journalists think, behave and go about doing their job, I am so glad I never chose that for a career. Tagger, in his search for the actual cause of death of the washed-up rock star, gets himself into all kinds of trouble. He interviews the widow, the surviving relative, sends the intern to do some more snooping, gets romantically involved with his editor and gets his editor kidnapped. He upsets his editor, because he can’t just write the obituary, the widow because he refuses to stop investigating her husband’s death and finally, the intern who discovers aspects of journalism he never thought relevant.

Hiassen writes a great escapist attraction of a novel, but manages to make the characters human, rather than predictable. At 319 pages, “Basket Case” is a quick read and overall, fun and well worth the time.

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