Beware the Caravella Monkey!

Beware the Caravella Monkey!

Okay, look, here’s the deal: I adore mysteries, thrillers, legal dramas and, well, more or less dark or intense stuff. I even have three of my own police procedural mysteries out there. But now and then I need a break from reality and Dave Barry’s Insane City, meaning Miami, is absolutely perfect because there aren’t many, if any, fiction writers better suited to provide a belly laugh about Florida’s most mesmerizing city than this award-winning writer. Hand-to-my-heart truth.

But a diversion: Because an orangutan ultimately becomes a central character in this knee-slapping novel, I have to share a story. (Sorry, Dave Barry; not trying to steal your thunder, as if that were possible.) Once upon a time, I was city editor for a now-extinct daily evening newspaper called The Evening Times. True! We had three editions every day, which meant three deadlines every day. The pressure was hideous. The hours were hideous. But ONE day, the reporter then covering the police beat excitedly told me at about 5 a.m. that the police were trying to capture a destructive Caravella monkey, which was wreaking havoc throughout Palm Beach County. My blood surged at the thought. The headlines! The story! The excitement! I could hear the reporter talking to a cop source and I watched her scribble details. I pounded her for details. I pushed her to the limits. I called for photos! I rushed into the morning meeting to report what was going on and how we’d have a major scoop. I couldn’t WAIT for the first edition to come out.

Well: I was the unwitting target of an elaborate ploy, which is common among journalists, and I fell for it all the way. Mind you, this goes back to the ’80s, prior to online search and all of that good stuff. So, when the first edition landed on my desk I quickly flipped through pages of the newspaper, looking for the story of the day THAT NO ONE ELSE HAD.

Uh huh. Hysterical reporters, not to mention the managing editor, photographers, and even some cops, were all in on the prank. I was the brunt of a joke that to this day remains an occasional topic of hilarity among those of us who have kept in touch. You’d think I’d be smarter; my own journalism career began as a police reporter.

The point? My five-star review may be influenced by that true-to-life prank. But that monkeys — or in Barry’s case, an orangutan — can create chaos in a ridiculous fashion that only Barry could somehow make almost believable, is good enough reason to pick up the novel and read it. Seriously, and I’m not always serious.

Oh? By the way? There is no such thing as a Caravella monkey. But again, there was no Google back in the day. And back in the day was a lot more fun. Read Barry’s book. Do it now.