Interview: Carl Hiaasen

By JIM SULLIVAN  |  July 22, 2010

What did you share?
What we had in common, was the writing, in the sense, of the appreciation of a good line. He would agonize over an adjective in a line of music in the same way you or I do writing a column. That’s what writers do. It wasn’t that it just fit the meter of the song. That stuff fascinated me. For him to go through the same soul twisting pain all writers go through.

You also share a sense of grim irony and dogged persistence — like, we’ll get through this shit somehow.
When I knew him he was already sober for a while, so when I read Crystal’s book [ex-wife Crystal Zevon’s I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon], I don’t know if I could’ve handled it, it was so dreadful. I didn’t know that guy, but the charm was there early on. It was something he rarely talked about. He just said, when I’d mention a song that I really liked he’d say, “I don’t even remember recording it.” He’d also say that except for the kids — the separation and the difficulty, just walking away and having to reconnect, that part he regretted, not being there as a father, but all the fun all the dope all the booze, he just looked at me, and said “I had a hell of a time. I’m not sure I’d do it over any differently.” But he also had the constitution of a rhinoceros because the shit he did would have killed most mortal men in no time.

I gathered from her book that he said the hell with it and went back to abusing booze and drugs.
They said, “You’re gonna have a lot of pain” and he told me he wasn’t having a lot of pain but they’d given him liquid morphine. He got very depressed and he went into a period where it was Glenlivet and liquid morphine. None of us could get to him and he hadn’t finished the album and Jorge [Calderon, Zevon’s longtime co-songwriter, bassist, and friend] was calling me. At one point I was going to get on a plane and go out there. They were talking about literally taking the door off his apartment and trying to see if he was OK. He was a mess.

I’m glad I didn’t go because it was an ugly thing and he had so many people caring about him, his kids, [his daughter] Ariel was pregnant, and at one point I said to Jorge and [his son] Jordan, “He’s gonna end up a cliché and he’s too good to end up a cliché.” He can’t do this to himself; it’s selfish. “I understand you’re dying and you’re bummed out, but man. . . . ”Then he bounced back, he stopped doing it, and he was perfectly good and straight when the grandkids were born. He told me he made up his mind; he was going to be around to see his grand children born and he really came out of it towards the end. We were talking again, and for [my book] Skinny Dip, I had sent him a manuscript while I was working on it. He said, “I’m reading again, I can read now I’m doing OK.” And he read all but the last three chapters. He was the one that gave me the title. Warren suggested it, the editors loved it, and he was so tickled. The last three chapters were in FedEx and he died that weekend and they came on a Monday. But he had it together again. For a long time, he wasn’t reading or doing anything but sitting in that apartment and I understand it was pretty desolate and horrible.

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