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Author Milt Bearden

Milt Bearden spent 30 years in the CIA. He ran the CIA covert operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, and helped train the Afghan freedom fighters. Bearden also was station chief in Pakistan, Moscow, and Khartoum. He received the CIA highest honor, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Since the Sept. 11th attacks, Bearden has been a frequent commentator on TV and in print. He is also the author of the novel, The Black Tulip: A Novel of War in Afghanistan (paperback, Random House).


Other segments from the episode on January 16, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 16, 2002: Interview with Milt Bearden; Interview with Carl Hiaasen; Review of four-CD set “Nuggets Two: Original songs from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964…


DATE January 16, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Milt Bearden on his book "Black Tulip"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogev, in for Terry Gross.

Milt Bearden's resume reads like a tour through the Cold War. He was a CIA
operative in China at the end of the cultural revolution. He later ran
interference with KGB counterparts as a station chief in Pakistan and
Khartoum. And in the mid-'80s, he directed the agency's covert aid program to
Afghan rebels during the Soviet invasion. After 30 years in intelligence,
Bearden retired and took up writing. His spy novel "Black Tulip" is based on
his time in Afghanistan delivering arms and military training to the
mujaheddin. Bearden says the war between the mujaheddin and the Soviets was
at a stalemate until the US equipped the Afghan rebels with Stinger
anti-aircraft missiles. I asked him to describe the Stinger.

Mr. MILT BEARDEN (Author, "Black Tulip"): Well, it's a shoulder-fired
anti-aircraft missile. The reality is it's supersophisticated, but it's what
you would call a fire and forget weapon. All you have to do is follow some
fairly simple instructions and do what you've been taught, which could last a
few days or a week or not much more than that. And if an aircraft is within
about 10,000 feet of you, you're likely to be able to bring him down, and
that's a helicopter or a fast-moving fighter aircraft. And the description of
the first Stinger shoot down in the "Black Tulip" is, you know, word for word
the way it happened. It's just exactly an account of the way this engineer
and his team were out on a hunter-killer mission out in Jalalabad, or outside
Jalalabad, and brought down the first three helicopters September 26th, 1986,
and turned the war around.

BOGEV: Now part of your responsibilities, aside from funnelling in weaponry to
the tune of over a billion dollars into Afghanistan, was overseeing the covert
aid program for Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets, and to provide military
training to them. What kind of military instruction did the CIA impart to the

Mr. BEARDEN: Well, the CIA was only indirectly involved in most of the
training. I think it's overdone. This is a very good area to get into on
this whole thing. Training, certainly on the sophisticated weapons systems,
like the Stinger, was choreographed by the US, and that was carried out over
the next three years of the war. The rest of the training was pretty much
small arms and cruiser weapons. The question you raise is the blow-back
issue, and it's a good one, and I don't usually shy away from it.

So here is my take on that: We had the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan on
Christmas Eve in 1979. We had a very good man, a moral man as president of
the time, Jimmy Carter, who said, you know, `This cannot stand.' So he made
the decision to go ahead and do something about it, and he, rather than
reacting with his Defense Department, or just sending diplomatic notes of
protest, decided to take the third alternative, which is to put CIA onto the
thing. And the mission was always the same; it never changed. It was to stop
the Soviets, turn them around and make them leave Afghanistan. By the time I
got there, about 50 percent of the Afghan population had been killed, wounded
or exiled into awful squalid refugee status by the Soviets.

So I think that what we did was proper, it was needed and it was reasonably
well executed. My problems start to arise where everybody else's do, and
that's after the Soviets quit Afghanistan in 1989, then what?

BOGEV: So you're saying that the CIA was not involved in training the
mujaheddin in any terrorist tactics.

Mr. BEARDEN: Correct. But let's take a look at this realistically. The
terrorist business is often murky. My freedom fighter could be your
terrorist. But we had a lot of rules going in in our engagement in
Afghanistan. They begin with little things like anti-personnel mines. The
United States government, CIA said, `We're not going to do that. We're not
going to buy any. We're not going to distribute any. We're not going to use
any.' Because the truth about those mines is that they'll be blowing off the
legs of young boys and girls tending goats for the next 50 years. They don't
help you that much, so we won't do that.

On terrorism, we did not train the Afghans to commit acts of terrorism. We
obviously trained them to conduct military operations. But, for example, I
spent considerable energy in my role as political agent in that part of the
world telling the mujaheddin that there were no percentages, no real
advantages in doing things like car bombs or truck bombs. They have a lot of
collateral damage. And so the truth is there wasn't a lot of terrorism if you
looked at it objectively. The Soviet Embassy in Kabul never got blown up.
The Soviet Embassy in Islamabad, just across the border into Pakistan never
got blown up. I don't think we can go back to a single act of Afghan
terrorism during that entire war.

BOGEV: Let's talk about Osama bin Laden. When did he first appear on the
agency radar as a major player in the anti-Soviet insurgence?

Mr. BEARDEN: We knew he was there. He was one of a large number of Gulf
Arabs that had shown up for this jihad. It was their jihad. You know, we
wanted a piece of it because A, it was the right thing to do, and B, the
Soviet Union was involved. But these fund-raisers, and they included not only
bin Laden but Saudi Red Crescent and all kinds of other groups, some of them
very, very good and proper and others, you know, a little on the psychopathic
side, contributed a lot of money to that effort. They built a lot of refugee
camps and homes for orphans of the fallen mujaheddin and their widows as well.
And, in fact, all the way up till the withdrawal of the Soviets, bin Laden
would have been thought of as more of a Robin Hood type character than any
kind of a problem.

We didn't have any contact with them, and for good reason, because none was
needed. And so a lot of the speculation and stories that Osama bin Laden was
our guy and that we recruited Arabs and trained them and all this for the
jihad, that's just not true, regardless of who says it.

BOGEV: What do you think of the United States' and Britain's obsession with
pursuing the manhunt of Osama bin Laden? Are we making the same mistake
again, the danger of demonizing him as this towering personality, as the
mastermind of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, as the figure?

Mr. BEARDEN: I think we are. The Brits and the Americans are in pretty much
lockstep here, so we really don't have much daylight between us. But I think
both of us, as cultures, like to put a face and a name on our adversaries.
And we do personalize. I mean, look at the Gulf War. This was something--I
mean, we all heard our president say `Saddam' how many times? Saddam Hussein,
Saddam. We personalize these things. I think that can be, you know, I guess
OK if it's a Saddam Hussein or a Hitler or something like that. But on
something as poorly understood as this international terrorist thing, I
believe it could be even dangerous to think that just by calling Osama bin
Laden onto the dock in a burlap bag and saying, `This is it,' there will be a
sense that it's over after that.

BOGEV: What comes next for the CIA in this new war on terrorism? And you've
described this new phase in the war as Kipling's ageless game of treachery and
betrayal. What does that game entail? And I suppose many people are
questioning whether the CIA is up to it as it stands now.

Mr. BEARDEN: We're still talking about Afghanistan. You know, that's
Kipling's ageless game of treachery and betrayal. And they brought a lot of
people back in who had had the experience over there, and sometimes it may
have looked like dad's army, or grandad's army of CIA guys working with US
Army Special Forces people in very small units, but when you look at what's
happened over the last hundred days in Afghanistan, the inescapable conclusion
is that the people who were doing this, who were managing this, understood it.
Just when the Northern Alliance reached a point moving into Kabul, they could
have turned this thing upside down, they stopped. At the key point, all of a
sudden we heard a new term, Eastern Alliance. And you had Special Forces and
CIA people in very small groups working with a lot of the old commanders in
the east as they sought to move through Tora Bora and now Paktia province.
And the same thing was going on down in the south.

None of this was an accident. This was, I think, a very well thought out
game book, playbook for how to do this thing without making all of the big
mistakes that one makes.

BOGEV: I'm talking with Milt Bearden. He is a 30-year veteran of the CIA.
he ran the CIA's covert aid program to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in
the '80s. He served as the station chief in Pakistan and Khartoum for the
agency. Bearden's the author, also, of a novel about the war in Afghanistan
called "Black Tulip." We're going to take a break now, Milt, and then we'll
talk some more.

Mr. BEARDEN: Yeah.


(Soundbite of music)

BOGEV: Back with CIA veteran Milt Bearden. He ran the agency's covert
operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. He's the author of a
novel of war in Afghanistan called "Black Tulip."

If we could pull back right now and take a global look at global terrorism,
during your tenure in the CIA, the Cold War was the rationale for everything.
It was the backdrop for almost every move you made there, for better or for
worse. Can you contrast that with the situation now, what it means for
central intelligence not to have an overriding ideology or historical context
on which to base its operations in this fight against loosely based, loosely
affiliated global terrorism networks?

Mr. BEARDEN: I mean, you've really got it. I mean, you know, that's tough.
I mean, I joined the CIA in 1964, after the organization was, oh, 15, 16, 17
years old. But the agency was formed by the National Security Act of 1947,
and that alone tells you what it was all about. I mean, it tells you that
basically this is a thing that was pulled together by Harry Truman because the
Soviet thing bothered him a lot. And everything that was done by the CIA up
until Boxing Day in 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared, had some tentacle
reaching in to make it part of that great big picture of the Soviet Union.
Whether it was Afghanistan or Central America or the gamesmanship in Africa,
you're right, you've got it exactly right, centered around this perfect enemy
that had made a world that was very, very orderly when you think about it.
You had two powers. Now the Soviets were, perhaps, overestimated, but you had
a bipolar world, most of the countries of the world lined up around one of
those two poles, and there was no such thing as a failed state. That came
after the Soviet Union disappeared from the scene and we became the sole
remaining superpower.

And so then some states became like, you know, `Why bother to throw any money?
The Soviets aren't going to pick these guys up, so leave them to their own
devices.' And we end up with the Afghanistans, the Somalias and a few other

BOGEV: I'm talking with CIA veteran Milt Bearden. He ran the agency's covert
operations in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. He's written a spy
novel of war in Afghanistan. It's called "Black Tulip."

Now what was your first assignment, or skill that you had to develop, where
you said, `Oh, yeah, this is the cloak-and-dagger stuff I came here for'?

Mr. BEARDEN: Well, the first thing they do to you is you take off and go
disappear somewhere that I don't think I'm still allowed to say. But you go
through the school training, and you just learn all--I mean, in 1964 terms,
it'd probably be something every kid has nowadays, but, you know, I mean,
you'd learn everything from locks and picks--how wonderful that is. I mean,
you open things that people don't want you to open. And flaps and seals,
which is, you know, getting into mail and then doing all kinds of covert

But this is still at a time when CIA didn't have the computing power of the
laptop computer that's probably, you know, on the desk in front of you right
now. But we were learning the trade. We were absolutely convinced of who we
as a nation were. Don't forget, it was only starting in '64, you know, the
Tonkin Gulf resolution. America was still feeling pretty good. The Kennedy
thing had shaken us, but it had not rattled us. That would all come later.
So this was a wonderful time. I spent only a year doing the training thing,
then I was in Germany as a young CIA officer, because I had German, as well as
Chinese. And I was over there, more or less, watching secondarily what the
Chinese were up to Europe. So I had--Chinese and German kept me in
German-speaking Europe for years and years.

BOGEV: Did you ever, in your 30 years in the CIA, have to pick a lock?

Mr. BEARDEN: You know, I didn't. In my 30 years, no. In my 30 years, when I
had to have a lock picked, there was always a guy that did that so much better
than the guy that taught me how to do it.


Mr. BEARDEN: And in the interim period, after let's say the mid-'70s, we
didn't--you know, in the Frank Church period and all that--those things were
no longer thought of as cool, and so they didn't teach them anymore, except to
people who would really--that would be what they would do, kind of
second-story guys.

BOGEV: Well, just to show how naive I am, I have to ask you this question,
which is in the book "Black Tulip," you present an interesting mind game that
the spy, Alexander, plays with the Soviet commanders and operatives in
Afghanistan. And he leaves a note for them in the setup for an operation to
blow up a Soviet ammunitions facility. And the note is designed to put the
Soviets on edge, I suppose. Nothing spelled out plainly. He signs the
note--has someone sign the note with the name of one of the 99 names of Allah.
And it's interpreted as a game by the Soviets, a very sophisticated one. He
also sends a black tulip as the symbol of death to the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Does that kind of stuff really go on?

Mr. BEARDEN: Well, I did all of that stuff, yeah. I mean, but that's because
I'm a hopeless romantic and I think maybe not everybody does that that way.
But so much of the stuff in "The Black Tulip" is right out of the way I did
that war for three years.

And during the Afghan war, it developed that there were supposed to be toy
bombs being put out there by the Soviets. These were ballyhooed all over the
American media and on broadcast television as just another sign of how evil
the Soviets were to create bombs in the shape of toys so that little children
would have their arms and legs blown off by them. Truth was it wasn't true.
There were some small mines that they were dropping from helicopters that
looked kind of like something a kid would pick up. And, in fact, they did and
they got hurt.

But the story drove the Soviets so nuts that, you know, I was asked often by
Washington, what do I think about it? I said, `The story isn't true, but
don't let that stop you from exploiting it.' And so we really played them
hard on that one. And I even sent to the KGB chief catalogs from Toys 'R' Us,
and I just, you know, like to go through my life saying that that turned it
over for him. He finally just ran screaming out to the airport and said, `Get
me out of here.' But, you know, yeah. I gave you that one free because a
couple of the others I can't give you.

But one of the things that haunts me to this day is the story that is still
out there. And when I was in Moscow last time some performer--Soviet troopers
kind of got word to me that they still held a grudge on this event. I told
you earlier that I had discouraged the use of car bombs and truck bombs
because this would lose sympathy for the mujaheddin. And very proudly one
time I was advised that, `Mr. Milt, we have just done a very successful camel
bomb operation.' And they had taken a camel, loaded it with a bunch of
explosives and put it by a Soviet garrison in Jalalabad--where everybody knows
where that is today--and detonated it. And it had taken out a lot of troops.
And I had never told them to do a camel bomb, but they thought that since I
didn't say, `Don't do a camel bomb,' that that would be OK. And this one
still comes back at me. I mean, it's almost a bizarre, weird story of how
these people say, `Well, we can't do car bombs and truck bombs 'cause Mr.
Milt says that's bad. But let's do a camel bomb,' and somehow that's going to
be OK. So that one is still out there.

BOGEV: Milt Bearden, I want to thank you very much for talking with us today

Mr. BEARDEN: Been terrific being with you.

BOGEV: Milt Bearden served as an intelligence officer in the CIA for 30
years. His spy novel, "The Black Tulip," is out in paperback. I'm Barbara
Bogev, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Carl Hiaasen discusses his new novel and living in
south Florida

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Ethan Hawk, the actor, writes novels. Billy Bob Thornton has a new album out.
So why shouldn't Carl Hiaasen, the best-selling Florida-based crime novelist,
write a rock song? That song, which Hiaasen wrote and recorded with Warren
Zevon, is featured in his new novel, "Basket Case." In the novel, it's
performed by rock star Jimmy Stoma, but Stoma's found dead and obituary writer
Jack Tagger becomes suspicious. Hiaasen came to fiction writing after a
career in journalism. He still writes a twice-weekly column for The Miami
Herald. A new collection of his columns has just been published called
"Paradise Screwed." Terry began her interview with Carl Hiaasen with a
reading from the opening of his new novel, "Basket Case."

Mr. CARL HIAASEN (Author): `Regarding the death of James Bradley Stomarti,
what first catches my attention is his age: 39. That's seven years younger
than I am. I'm drawn to the young and old, but who isn't? The most avidly
read obituaries are of those who died too soon and those who lasted beyond
expectations. What everybody wants to know is: Why them? What was their
secret or their fatal mistake? Could the same happen to me? I like to know
myself. Something else about James Bradley Stomarti--the name. I'm sure I've
heard it before, but there's no clue in the facts from the funeral home.
Private services Tuesday, ashes to be scattered in the Atlantic. In lieu of
flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Cousteau Society.
That's classy. I scan the list of survived bys and note a wife, sister,
uncle, mother, no kids, which is somewhat unusual for a 39-year-old straight
guy, which I assume from his marital status James Bradley Stomarti to be.

`Tapping a key on my desktop, I am instantly wired into our morgue, although
I'm the only one in the newsroom who still calls it that. Resource retrieval
center is what the memos say, but morgue is more fitting. It's here they keep
all dead stories dating back to 1975, which in a newspaper's memory is about
as fresh as dinosaur dung. I type in the name of the deceased. Bingo! I'm
careful not to chuckle or even smile as I don't wish to alert my ever-watchful
editor. Our newspaper publishes only one feature obituary each day. Other
deaths are capsulized in brief paragraphs or ignored altogether. For years
the paper ran two daily full-length obits, but recently the death page lost
space to the weather page which had lost space to the celebrity eye page which
had lost space to horoscopes. The shrunken news hole leaves room for only a
single story, so I am now cagey about committing to a subject. My editor is
not the flexible sort. Once I tell her whom I'm writing about, there's no
turning back, even if someone far more interesting expires later in the news


That's Carl Hiaasen reading from the opening of his new novel "Basket Case."

So who is the person who has just died?

Mr. HIAASEN: The person who has just died is a faded rock 'n' roll star from
the '80s who's known as Jimmy Stoma, who was the front man for an outrageous
'80s band called Jimmy and the Slut Puppies.

GROSS: Why did you want the mystery to revolve around the dead leader of a
rock band?

Mr. HIAASEN: If you worked in a newsroom and you did this for a living,
writing obituaries, you would--it's the sort of story you would gravitate to
because it has an instant sort of younger audience, it has some resonance with
your own, you know, taste in music, and it's just sort of a grab-me story.
It's sort of, you know right away it's gonna be a good headline so you wanna
do the story. And I just thought for an obituary writer who, as the narrator
in my book, is sort of trying to write his way out of a bad job and looking
for a big story to hang his star on, this is a good one. He sees this as his
ticket back to respectability.

GROSS: And, of course, you had to write some lyrics for...


GROSS: ...the book and you actually even, with Warren Zevon, wrote a whole
song, "Basket Case," which is the hit single that the band had. It's also the
title of your book. Before we actually hear some of this song, tell us why
you felt you needed to actually make a record to...

Mr. HIAASEN: I don't know.

GROSS: a companion with the book.

Mr. HIAASEN: It wasn't really something I felt I needed. Sounded like it was
gonna be fun at the time. The book was done and the title of the book was all
set, and I realized that there are lyrics sprinkled throughout the novel that
I sort of had to write to fit the story and to fit certain songs that play a
role in sorting out the mystery, and I only had two lines of lyrics for the
song "Basket Case," and Warren is a friend of mine, a great songwriter, and
just on a kind of hoot I said, `Would you mind, you know--wouldn't it be fun
to help me finish this song? And, you know, we'd have a real song to go with
the book.' And he very graciously and in some masochistic sense of friendship
agreed to do it. And he and I worked out the lyrics, sort of faxing various
lines back and forth and we got those hammered out. He just did the music and
sent me a CD one day and it had this great guitar lick in it and it was really
ama--I call him back and said, `This is way too good for Jimmy and the Slut
Puppies. What are we gonna do now?'

GROSS: I guess right now it's time to hear the record, so this is "Basket
Case" with the lyric by Carl Hiaasen and Warren Zevon, music by Warren Zevon,
performed by Warren Zevon.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. WARREN ZEVON: (Singing) My baby is a basket case, a bipolar woman in
leather and lace. Face like an angel, she's a perfect waste. My baby is a
basket case. Dragon's daughter, Calamity Jane, smoke on the water, water on
her brain. She's pretty as a picture and totally crazed. My baby is a basket

GROSS: Newspaper columnist and mystery writer Carl Hiaasen is my guest. His
new novel, "Basket Case," is about an obituary writer who finds a mystery in
the obituary that he's writing for a dead musician.

How come you're still writing columns in spite of the fact that you're a very
successful novelist?

Mr. HIAASEN: Because I'm not a well person. I mean, I should have bailed a
long time ago. Because I love the business. I believe in the--it's a pure
business if you do it right and you do it with your heart. I mean, it does
get in your veins. It's a cliche, but it's true. I grew up sort of in the
newsroom. I mean, I've been in the business a long time. I think there's
nothing more noble than going out and writing an important story that can help
someone who has no other voice speaking for him or her, and you can actually
change lives in a positive way. It's a good business to be in, and it's hard
to shake free of it. The other side of that, Terry, is also that there's no
doubt that working in a place like south Florida, which is as weird as it
gets, I certainly can mine the real-life news stories and the real-life
characters for the novels. I mean, one feeds the other, and there's just--you
can't spend a couple days down there and not see how fertile the territory is
for a novelist as well as for a journalist. So I'm certainly--the two sides
of my life complement each other in that way.

GROSS: Yeah. You write about south Florida in your columns and in your
novels. South Florida was surprisingly one of the centers of terrorist
activity. I mean, several of the terrorists who were involved...

Mr. HIAASEN: Yeah.

GROSS: the hijacking lived in south Florida for a while. I think they
went to a flight school there. Is that right?

Mr. HIAASEN: Yeah. There were 14 of the 19, amazingly, lived and had some
training in south Florida and even I was...

GROSS: Which is kind of amazing. Like, when you...

Mr. HIAASEN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...ask yourself: Where would anti-Semitic hijackers...

Mr. HIAASEN: Right.

GROSS: ...most like to live? How about south Florida where there's lots of
Jewish retirees living?

Mr. HIAASEN: Right. I mean, you know, not far from where, you know, the
butterfly ballots were...

GROSS: Right.

Mr. HIAASEN: ...falling for Pat Buchanan, improbably enough. I mean, there's
just so many--it seems like so many major news stories have some sort of south
Florida connection, and even I was amazed--I thought nothing would surprise me
anymore, but after the tragedy here and they started running the photos and
mug shots of these characters and where they lived and the addresses on their
driver's licenses were all coming back to places in Florida, and I thought,
`Oh, my God, how could this possibly be?' And, you know, I thought about it
and even wrote about it to the extent that I think it is a place where outlaws
have always felt comfortable. They're always accepted, they always blend in
and these are guys that are walking around paying for everything with cash
practically. South Florida opens its arms to anybody with cash in their
pockets and as we've exhibited with the drug trade over the years. It's a
place where you can buy respectability, you can buy privacy because it's a
very transient place. Not many people who are born there hang around. I
mean, it's just a place populated by people from other places, and they don't
know their neighbors that well and it was an easy place for these guys to get
lost and they had no problem whatsoever operating there and drew no suspicion
to themselves.

GROSS: Well, other things that have happened connected with terrorism in
south Florida, the first anthrax letter was discovered...

Mr. HIAASEN: Yeah.

GROSS: the office of The Globe in south Florida. Now that may very
well have been a domestic terrorist, but still terrorism. The flight from
France on which the guy had explosives in his shoe...

Mr. HIAASEN: Yeah. The shoe bomb...

GROSS: ...was bound for Miami.

Mr. HIAASEN: The "Get Smart" guy. Yeah, really. What reruns was he
watching? People have--like you sai...

GROSS: Has this gotten to a lot of people in south Florida? Are people
starting to feel like...

Mr. HIAASEN: Well, we write about it.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. HIAASEN: Certainly--it's like how much of it you can take. You know,
we've got--you know, I mean, this is an example. You just feel like there's a
compass of weirdness, and no matter how many times it spins, that the arrow is
gonna point our way inevitably. And I use an example. After O.J. Simpson,
the second trial in which the civil jury found him culpable in the deaths of
his wife and Ron Goldman and he announced he'd be leaving LA, you know, I
remember saying to my wife, `You know what? That guy is moving to Miami.
I'll bet you anything.' And sure enough there he is, and you know, he's
already drawing the attention of law enforcement authorities. It just seems
it's inevitable migration our way. But it's always been that way. Going
back, I mean, in the Civil War you had people running to south Florida, hide,
and a lot of the great outlaws of the Wild West spent time in Florida hiding
out in the swamps. And I think to some extent most of the swamps are gone,
but for whatever reason the attraction of the place is still there.

BOGAEV: Carl Hiaasen's new novel is "Basket Case." He writes a column for
The Miami Herald. We'll hear more of his conversation with Terry Gross after
the break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: We're back with novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen.
His new novel is "Basket Case."

GROSS: Now how did your family get to south Florida?

Mr. HIAASEN: Well, my grandfather was originally from Norway and his family
migrated to North Dakota and he got a law degree, and as soon as he had a job
offer to get out of the North Dakota winters, he wasted no time hopping a
train, and so he settled down there in 1922, which is considered ancient
times. And my father was born down there and I was and my son, but that's not
the common story. Most people are much newer arrivals than that.

GROSS: Describe what it looked like then in your back yard or in your
neighborhood. And we're talking about the '50s or the '60s?

Mr. HIAASEN: Well, I was born in '53, and so you know, in that time if it
rained, you were essentially, you know, in the swamp. You know, one good rain
and you were pretty much wading out--if there was a road, you were wading out
to it. I mean, it was very, you know--it was just terribly flat and probably
to some people not very scenic, but to me it was a wonderful place. You just
got on your bike and you rode a very short distance and you couldn't hear
another car, you didn't hear a plane. You were in the middle of what was sort
of a jungle. And when you were a kid, that was a great way to grow up. You
know, we caught snakes, we were out, you know, camping, fishing all the time,
and it was just--there was nothing else to do. I remember it was a big deal
when the first convenience store opened up near our house. It was like five
miles away and it was considered--that was a big deal. We had an actual--it
was like a 7-Eleven or something opened up and it was like the grand opening
of all time, you know.

And now, of course, it's unrecognizable. You know, you can celebrate when you
find a lot that doesn't have something built on it. But at that time it was
all wild and that was sort of the context in which some--in fact some of the
books were written. I mean, the contrast between a place that goes from that
to being, you know, a big city so fast, you're bound to have, you know, people
cracking up and people bursting--you know, the whole place bursting at the
seams, which is what it seems like sometimes.

GROSS: What was your personal reaction to that upheaval? Not your writer
reaction, but your reaction as just a guy living in south Florida?

Mr. HIAASEN: Well, you know, I've always--I just love the outdoors, and when
you see it disappear, you walk around with a little bit of a sick feeling in
your gut all the time, and that's why I always root--you know, you see these
stories. I'm always rooting for the alligators over the poodles all the time,
I have to say. They were there first and they're gonna be there long after
we're gone, but I've always--you know, it's a helpless feeling. You can't
change it. It's just sort of the engine of the economy. It's a beautiful
place and lots of people want to live there and you're not gonna stop them
from living there. But at the same time, part of me always cheers when a big
hurricane rears up and comes in and kicks some butt and sort of reminds us all
that we live in a, you know, tropical hurricane zone. If we're gonna build
these nice houses, they better stand up to 150-mile-an-hour winds or we're in
the wrong neck of the woods.

GROSS: A lot of people leave their hometowns, in fact, look forward to
leaving their hometowns so that they can get away from people who have defined
them in a certain way and they can be freer and, you know, reinvent themselves
or just have a change of venue. Have you ever tried living outside of

Mr. HIAASEN: No. I went to school for two years in Atlanta at Emory
University, and it was fine. But I mean, I wasn't really living there, I was
just going to school and going home. I haven't and I haven't had any desire
to. I mean, believe me, there are days when I wake up and look at the
headlines in the Herald and say, `You know, really, this isn't the place I
want to be raising a family.' But when you're born somewhere and become
attached to it and have as much affection for at least the remaining
wilderness that we have down there, I feel like I have some sort of moral duty
to stay and fight for the place, because I think that if all of us who got
disgruntled and discouraged left, it's sort of a surrender. You know, you
write about what you know best. You write about home and a place that you
care about, and I certainly maybe someday will set a book somewhere else, but
I'm not gonna purposely say, `Now I'm gonna go do my book in Rome or Athens
now.' I mean, that would be kind of foolish for me.

GROSS: Carl Hiaasen, thanks so much for talking with us about your writing.

Mr. HIAASEN: Well, thank you for having me on the show.

BOGAEV: Journalist and novelist Carl Hiaasen talking with Terry Gross. His
new novel is "Basket Case." A new collection of his columns for The Miami
Herald is just out. It's called "Paradise Screwed."

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: That's Russell Gunn from "Ethnomusicology Vol. 2." Coming up, Ed
Ward has some psychedelic oddities from England and beyond. This is FRESH

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New compilation of music from the 1960s, "Nuggets II"

When Rhino Records expanded Lenny Kaye's groundbreaking compilation of
American psychedelic obscurities "Nuggets" to a full four-CD set, it just
brought home how much good stuff there was out there. Now with "Nuggets II,"
Rhino has taken on the rest of the world with another megaset. In the first
of a two-part review, Ed Ward takes us to psychedelic England.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Making time, shooting line...

ED WARD reporting:

Although we tend to forget it, thanks to the hegemony of The Beatles and The
Stones, in England, the '60s were different in a lot of important ways from
the way they were in the States. As writer John Savage(ph) has pointed out,
in England no one was particularly worried about Vietnam. Instead, youngsters
were celebrating freedoms they'd never had before: the end of food rationing,
a booming economy and the luxury of becoming a bohemian layabout if that's
what you wanted to do. Because of this, a lot of the bands who appeared there
in the mid-'60s were either following their own loopy dreams or imitating a
band few Americans had yet heard of, The Who.

(Soundbite of music)

THE CREATION: (Singing) I want to see your face everywhere I go. Yeah, be at
the places, places I know. How can I now? Biff! Bang! Pow! I can't get
rid of you, no matter how I try. You're always around...

WARD: The Creation, with songs like "Making Time" and "Biff, Bang, Pow," were
probably the best at this, and, like The Who, they pursued a pop art strategy
on stage, painting models, destroying stuff and playing with a full-bore
frenzy. Their music, like The Who's, was based in the same R&B The Stones

(Soundbite of music)

PRETTY THINGS: (Singing) Yeah, Rosalyn(ph), tell me where you've been. Oh,
Rosalyn, tell me where you've been. Every night and every day I can see some
game you play. The way you're treating me is sure a sin. Oh, Rosalyn. Yeah,
Rosalyn. Oh, Rosalyn...

WARD: Some bands, of course, stuck to the old ways, and in the case of the
Pretty Things, who we just heard, there was a direct connection, in that their
guitarist, Dick Taylor, had actually been a member of The Rolling Stones early
on. Others took a middle course, writing less traditional songs but keeping
the nasty sound.

(Soundbite of music)

THE BIRDS: (Singing) I never saw a night so right for love, never saw the
stars so bright above, never felt that I could be like this, like I'm living
just for your sweet kiss. Well, what's she gonna say now? What's she gonna
say now? What's she gonna say now? Oh, you're going to say those magic

WARD: The Birds--spelled with I, not a Y--had been in business for several
years when they recorded "Say Those Magic Words." And their Stones connection
lay in the future when guitarist Ron Wood would join Mick and the boys. In
fact, a lot of future stars got their starts in obscure psychedelic bands,
like this kid from a London suburb.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVEY JONES AND THE LOWER THIRD: (Singing) You've got a habit of leaving me,
and you've got a habit of deserting me. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I'm so
sad, sometimes I...

WARD: I won't torture you with any more of that, but it's David Jones and The
Lower Third. Jones, of course, would change his name to Bowie and learn to
sing a bit better. Or see if you can find the star in this one.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DAVE EDMUNDS: (Singing) Tell me again what you told me before. There
were so many things, I'm not really sure. See what I mean. I'll forget all I
know. But you're trying to tell me I'll have to go. Oh, do I have to go? Do
I have to go? I can laugh, I can cry, you should never ask me why.
(Unintelligible) I believe in you. I can dance, I can sing...

WARD: Why, of course, it's Dave Edmunds with his first band, Love Sculpture.
What's really surprising about a lot of this stuff is how well-made it was,
even if it never made a dent in the world's consciousness. Here, for
instance, is a group called Tomorrow.

(Soundbite of music)

TOMORROW: (Singing) Riding all around the streets, 4:00 and they're all
asleep. I am not sad, and it's so late; moving fast, everything looks great.
My white bicycle, my white bicycle. See that man...

WARD: Today, people think everything sounded like that in 1967, but, in fact,
songs like this really stood out. And although this one sold well, it never
charted, and the band fell apart. In fact, this whole era, both in the UK and
America, is littered with dozens and dozens of fantastic records, which few
people ever heard. Even so, that's not the biggest surprise "Nuggets II" has
up its sleeve. In part two, I'll show you how Uruguay and Czechoslovakia
rocked in the '60s.

BOGAEV: Ed Ward lives in Berlin. Later this week, we'll hear the second part
of Ed's review of "Nuggets II."


BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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