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Literature / Squeeze Me

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Squeeze Me is a 2020 novel by Floridian humor novelist Carl Hiaasen.

From the jacket description:"At the height of Palm Beach’s charity ball season, Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, a prominent member of geriatric high society, suddenly vanishes during a swank gala. Kiki Pew was a founding member of the Potussies, a group of women dedicated to supporting the President, who spends half the year at the "Winter White House" just down the road. Meanwhile, Angie Armstrong, wildlife wrangler extraordinaire, is called to the island to deal with a monster-sized Burmese python that has taken residency in a tree. But the President is focused on the disappearance of Kiki Pew. Never one to miss an opportunity to play to his base, he immediately declares her a victim of rampaging immigrant hordes. This, it turns out, is far from the truth, which now lies in the middle of the road, where a bizarre discovery brings the First Lady’s motorcade to a grinding halt."

The unlucky victim of the President's latest "crusade" is Diego Beltran, a Honduran college student who re-entered the country illegally to escape political violence at home. Angie, who knows how Kiki Pew really died, becomes determined to exonerate Diego, and conscripts two reluctant allies: Palm Beach Police Chief Jerry Crosby, and United States Secret Service Special Agent Paul Ryscamp.

N.B. The novel was first released in August 2020; however, the paperback was released in May 2021 with an updated epilogue written by the author, taking account of the "bizarre real-life events" that had occurred after the November 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Squeeze Me contains examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: Mockingbird, a retired fashion model, eats healthy and works out regularly. Mastodon eats four bags of Egg McMuffins every morning and limits his physical activity to golf. The results show.
    Mastodon was still fumbling to belt his pants, groping for the buckle over the rolling sea of his gut.
  • Air Quotes: Mastodon makes these repeatedly "with his stubby doll fingers" during his press conference scapegoating Diego Beltran.
  • The Alcoholic: The deceased Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, and the surviving POTUS Pussies always take multiple cocktails with every meal, and on every occasion, passing it off as a genteel habit; Kiki Pew's autopsy confirms that she was legally drunk at the time of her disappearance, which likely contributed to her being overpowered and swallowed by an 18-foot Burmese python.
    • Also Kiki Pew's second husband, Mott FitzSimmons, who managed to survive the "day-to-day stress of having a black man in the Oval Office", only to be killed by "non-partisan liver cancer, brought on by a stupendous lifetime intake of malt Scotch."
  • Amusing Injuries: Mastodon, who maintains an expensive tanning bed at both the White House and his Florida mansion, suffers third degree burns to his face, and his hair nearly catches fire, when the bed malfunctions.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Pruitt "lost" his knife hand to an alligator's jaws after Angie witnessed him kill a fawn with his airboat and then start to butcher it for dinner.
  • Animal Assassin: Averted.
    • Jerry Crosby and Paul Ryscamp are both worried when Angie concludes that the giant Burmese pythons appearing in Palm Beach are being released deliberately, but Angie reassures them:
      These things aren't like Rottweilers; you can't train 'em to seek and attack... can you guys believe this fucked-up conversation?
    • Angie asks Skink what the point of releasing giant pythons near the President's mansion is, since "not even a twenty-four footer can swallow that fool"; Skink just laughs and says all he wants to do is open people's eyes a little;
    • Inverted in the ending, when Angie accuses Skink of releasing the python that killed Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, and is stunned when he swears that that snake was not one of his.
  • Anonymous Ringer: "Mastodon" and "Mockingbird", the fictional President and First Lady of the United States, share many characteristics (several of them unflattering) with the 45th President of the United States and his wife, but are not explicitly identified and their Secret Service codenames are different.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: When a suburban husband hands Angie a "Glock nine [milimeter]", she "ma[kes] sure the safety [is] on before placing it on the counter." Glock pistols do not have manual safeties.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Played with in the character of Katherine "Kiki" Pew Fitzsimmons; the readers never actually "meet" Kiki Pew before her death, but the author's description of her husband, plus the fact of her membership in the "POTUS Pussies", and the conduct of the surviving members, clearly imply that she wasn't very likable:
      It was Kiki Pew's commiserative coddling that got him through the Obama years, though at times she feared her excitable spouse might physically succumb from the day-to-day stress of having a black man in the Oval Office... Kiki Pew was consoled by the fact that her husband lived long enough to relish the election of a new President, who was reliably white, old, and scornful of social reforms.
    • Mastodon: Enough said.
  • Badass Boast: When Angie Armstrong's stalker, Pruitt, extends his death threats to Angie's stepson and his girlfriend, Angie (a professional wildlife wrangler) wakes Pruitt up by slipping a bobcat into his bedroom, and informs him, "ever bother my stepson again, I'll kill you, and not in a statutorily humane way."
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Paul Ryscamp, the head of the U.S. Secret Service's regional office in West Palm Beach, is acutely conscious that his official job is to protect the President and his family from harm, while "keeping them safe from scandal [is] supposed to be somebody else's job", yet he is demoralized by having to perform other duties, including:
    • assigning agents to the Potussies after the President claims they are being threatened by "terrorist immigrants";
    • visiting the President's latest mistress in order to quash her upcoming tell-all book about their affair;
    • bribing a wealthy contributor with a counterfeit illegal erectile dysfunction antidote in order to convince him not to bring a known spy as his date to the President's residence; and
    • ensuring that the First Lady's torrid affair with one of his own agents remains secret.
  • Believing Your Own Lies:
    • It's ambiguous whether Fay Alex Riptoad and the other "Potussies" honestly believe they are being targeted by "terrorist immigrants" or whether they are just milking the spotlight for prestige points; it's even ambiguous whether they know themselves;
    • (in the updated epilogue) After his "messy expulsion from Washington", Mastodon still insists on being addressed as "Mr. President".
  • Berserk Button: As a wildlife officer, Angie witnessed a poacher run over a fawn with his airboat, then circle back to finish it off and butcher it for dinner. She arrested him, but also offered his knife hand to an alligator as a snack.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Angie reflexively addresses everyone as "Sir" or "Ma'am", but do not assume that makes her a pushover, as one customer who tries to back out of paying her fee finds out:
    Jonathan Fleck: I went from "sir" to "Senor Fuckwhistle"?
  • Bleed 'Em and Weep: Angie cries after decapitating the second python.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mastodon is still President, and although Diego is formally exonerated by a public statement, he is still required to be disguised and smuggled out when he is released from jail, and the President quickly switches his attention to a new scapegoat.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Mastodon insists that the woman staying at his expense at a nearby beachfront hotel isn't a stripper, and certainly not his mistress, she's his personal nutritionist. Mockingbird's deadpan response: "And doing a fine job, I can see."
    • (in the updated epilogue) One of the Potussies absents herself from the group's usual gathering, after her son is arrested for "smearing what the FBI had determined to be beagle feces" over a statue in the Capitol Building during the January 6, 2021 riot. To anyone who asks, her standard response is, "my boy was framed by antifa!", but she still can't show her face in the "hideously small town" of Palm Beach, since every member of the island's population knows that her son is a Conspiracy Theory-obsessed "imbecile", who happens to own several beagles.
  • Bookends: The novel begins and ends with a Burmese python appearing on the grounds of an exclusive Palm Beach party;
  • Bodyguard Crush: Ahmet/Keith, the First Lady's lead Secret Service agent, is head-over-heels in love with her.
  • Break the Haughty: (in the updated epilogue) After Mastodon unsuccessfully hits on Angie, he hurriedly asked her if she signed a non-disclosure agreement, as all employees of the club must do. Angie laughs and replies, "what would I disclose, and who besides your loving wife would give a shit?"
  • Broken Pedestal: (in the updated epilogue) the Potussies, Mastodon's most fervent admirers, can't actually stomach having him at Casa Bellicosa full time, since his low taste in cuisine has ruined the restaurant's fare, and when he appears on a balcony without bothering to belt his bathrobe, even they can't pretend he cuts any kind of magisterial figure.
  • Cassandra Truth: Ryscamp gently advises Agent Ahmet/Keith that, no matter how genuine Mockingbird's affection for him is, it'll never be enough to persuade her to divorce Mastodon. Ahmet confidently replies, "just wait", and Ryscamp gives up. In the updated epilogue, Mockingbird explains to Ahmet that she can't afford to risk the millions of dollars she is earning as Mastodon's wife, at least not for the next three years that their "companionship contract" is in effect. He takes it about as well as you'd expect.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The President's expensive tanning bed (even described by the reviewer for The New Republic as "Chekov's Tanning Bed")
  • Clear My Name: Angie's motivator for much of the novel, securing Diego Beltran's release from jail after the President re-casts him as a "terrorist" and a murderer, responsible for Kiki Pew FitzSimmons's death.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: The President is so flattered by his Secret Service code name, "Mastodon", that he orders his Chief of Staff to arrange a visit to the Smithsonian's National Zoo so he can see a live one; the Chief of Staff doesn't have the guts to tell his boss that mastodons have been extinct for thousands of years, so he tells the Commander-in-Chief that the Zoo's specimens are on loan to a wildlife park in New Zealand; predictably, the President soon gets distracted by "another daft notion" and doesn't bring up the subject again;
  • Combat Pragmatist: Angie, a professional wildlife wrangler and former wildlife control officer, says a gunshot is the most straightforward way of euthanizing an invasive animal, but when her client refuses to allow gunfire on the grounds, Angie decides to decapitate it with a machete.
  • Cool Mask: after his face is fried by his malfunctioning tanning bed, Mastodon refuses to skip his fundraising dinner, but likewise refuses to let the crowd see his blistered face, so he grabs an African tribal mask from one of the mansion's rooms and holds it in front of his face. Several of his agents agree that the mask looks cool, but none of the guests can understand why he chose to wear it, especially because he holds it so close to his mouth that the first few minutes of his speech are completely unintelligible.
  • Cool Shades: Mockingbird wears these everywhere, even in the bathtub.
  • The Cult: the Potussies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Angie.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Mastodon wears a toupee carefully anchored by Velcro hooks to a skullcap. His personal tanning bed's "test dummy", The Knob, has to wear a wig made from Mastodon's actual hair as part of the testing procedure (the author doesn't say where exactly the hair was taken from).
    • The Knob insists on calling it a "piece", because "wigs are for chicks."
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • In a bizarre dream, Angie sees herself removing a screech owl from the President's toupee, then being awarded a "milk chocolate medal" by a man wearing "a Confederate colonel's uniform and a red baseball cap."
    • The President, when warned of a "possible python threat" at Casa Bellicosa, scornfully dismisses the information as "another fake hoax by the deep-staters";
    • Likewise, when his mistress's "fake date" leaves the climactic fundraiser early, he remarks, "probably just a flu bug."
    • Said mistress is already shopping a racy book deal to New York publishers, including such salacious lines as "scathingly compar[ing] the executive gonads to 'dessicated chickpeas.'"
    • (in the updated epilogue) After one of the Potussies' sons is arrested during the Capitol riots, she repeatedly insists that he was "framed by antifa!"
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Angie, a professional wildlife wrangler, is not afraid of firearms, but she doesn't like using them even before it was made a condition of her parole;
  • Double Standard: Mastodon and Mockingbird both cheat on each other, but each is infuriated when he/she finds out about the other's affairs.
    • Mockingbird, in particular, has made clear that the last thing she wants is for her husband to show any interest in sleeping with her, but takes it as a personal insult when he sleeps with someone else ("Have you seen the thighs on that woman?" she snipes of her husband's latest mistress).
  • Dreaming the Truth: Averted. Angie has two bizarre dreams, but neither of them does anything to change her opinion that "dreams meant nothing - nonsense farted by a restless subconscious." (on Goodreads, Hiaasen said that this is how he himself feels about his dreams, and sometimes he feels the need to embellish them for the benefit of his therapist).
    • In one, she is summoned to Casa Bellicosa to remove a screech owl from the President's hairpiece "which it had mistaken for a roadkill fox", then forced to sign a NDA swearing that she has not seen the President without the piece on;
    • In the second, she is climbing a tree while wearing an elaborate ballroom gown, in pursuit of a roaring one-eyed bear whose single good eye is a rose-colored pearl (this proves to be more prophetic);
  • Driven to Suicide: Averted, barely.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Hiaasen is well-known for creating madcap comedy scenarios, but there is no humor whatsoever in his description of the nightmare Diego Beltran is plunged into as a result of the President's scapegoating; forced to remain in jail, surrounded by right-wing protestors, attacked several times by racist inmates, and finally Driven to Suicide (almost). All while telling his entirely true version of events to Jerry Crosby and Paul Ryscamp, and them being forced to say they can't do anything in the face of the public furor stirred up by the President.
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • The President loves his Secret Service codename, "Mastodon", thinking it implies, "fearless, smart and tough!" - not knowing the name is a portmanteau of the Latin words "breast" and "tooth" - and to the First Lady it only implies, "f**king enormous."
    • The First Lady initially dislikes her codename, "Mockingbird", until she watches a YouTube video that describes them as "crafty, graceful, and melodious."
    • "The Knob" - the "test dummy" for the President's personal tanning bed, who is required, for testing purposes, to avoid natural sunlight and gain (and occasionally lose) weight to mimic the President's physique;
  • Evil Poacher: Pruitt, the poacher Angie arrested after watching him run over a fawn while drunkenly piloting an airboat;
  • Ghostwriter: Suzie Spooner, Mastodon's mistress, is already shopping a racy book proposal to New York publishers, but complains that "the dude that's helping me with the words, sometimes he's such a smartass"
    • When she learns about the book, Mockingbird's scornful appraisal is "the dumb whore couldn't write a Post-It note".
  • Girls Behind Bars: Angie spent 18 months at Florida's Gadsden Correctional Facility for aggravated assault; the experience does not seem to have traumatized her, but it has greatly reduced her tolerance for pretentiousness and folly.
  • Gold Digger: The main novel suggests that Mockingbird genuinely found Mastodon attractive when she first married him, but since then has stayed in the marriage for purely mercenary reasons. The updated epilogue is unambiguous: she tries to explain to her Secret Service boyfriend that she can't afford to divorce her husband, simply because she gets paid $10,000 just for touching his hand in public, and twice as much for actually holding it. Said boyfriend is unmoved, and dumps her.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Tripp Teabull, the manager of the Palm Beach estate where Kiki Pew FitzSimmons disappears, arranges an elaborate cover-up to conceal the fact that she was swallowed by an 18-foot Burmese Python; instead, her death is blamed on "terrorist immigrants" (one right-wing website even produces an animated "recreation" of her being kidnapped and butchered on the grounds) and Teabull is fired as a result of publicity that is even worse than what he was trying to avoid. He is forced to take a new job at a hunting lodge in Newfoundland.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Not a single character (with the exception of the President) blames Mockingbird for having an affair with her lead Secret Service agent, Keith/Ahmet (in Angie's words, "I were her, I'd go straight for the needle" and she freely admits that Keith/Ahmet is "a great-looking guy"), even if Paul Ryscamp wishes she were a little more discrete; Mastodon, by contrast, has a sloppy affair with a local stripper, who he's too clueless to realize is planning to get rich off a tell-all memoir she's already shopping to New York publishers.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Justified. Angie is required to dispatch two invasive pythons by the same method (decapitation with a machete); in the first case, the venue's manager refuses to let other guests hear the sound of a gunshot; in the second, there are too many Innocent Bystanders to risk a stray shot or a ricochet;
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: The Director of the U.S. Secret Service, after Skink slips a Burmese python into the bakery truck containing the President's personal shipment of Key Lime Pies.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: USSS Special Agent Paul Ryscamp, attempting to appear as a "carefree island dude who doesn't get noticed" usually dresses in board shorts, flip-flops and tropical print shirts. Angie points out that if he really wants to look like a Florida tourist, he needs to gain about 20 pounds, adding "That's a compliment, sir."
  • Hoist With His Own Petard:
    • Because of Mastodon's "festering distrust of Muslims", the Secret Service changes Ahmet Youssef's (who is half-Irish and half-Syrian by birth and Catholic by upbringing) name to "Keith Josephson"; on their first meeting, the President compliments the agent on his "tan" and demands to know what brand of bronzer he uses; "Keith" lies and says he uses tanning beds, which the President eagerly adopts, with catastrophic results;
    • Skink points out that the Burmese pythons abundant in South Florida are gradually spreading northwards, even to climes that were previously too cold for them to survive, "thanks to geniuses such as our Climate-Denier-in-Chief".
  • Human Resources:
    • Fay Alex Riptoad is furious when Kiki Pew's two sons, Chance and Chase Cornbright, balk at paying the promised reward money to the tipster who led to her body being found:
      They're whining about a lousy hundred thousand bucks. My God, Kiki Pew spent more than that every year on stem cells!
    • The Potussies "bas[k] in the prestige" of being assigned Secret Service bodyguards, but quickly fall into jealous feuds over which one of them has the agent who is most handsome, attentive, etc. Fay Alex Riptoad expects her agent "William something," to "obey orders as unquestioningly as all her employees", and sulks when he declines to ride next to her in the backseat of her limousine, especially when another member says her agent does that every time;
  • Idle Rich:
    • Kiki Pew FitzSimmons's two sons, Chance and Chase Cornbright, liquified their trust funds by getting married as soon as possible after finishing college, and there was a rift between them and their mother during her marriage to her "steeply neoconservative" second husband, who disapproved of his stepsons being too lazy to ever hold jobs.
    • When Fay Alex Riptoad impatiently demands an update on the investigation into Kiki FitzSimmons's death, she snaps, "I haven't got all day." Chief Crosby suppresses the urge to retort that Fay Alex "ha[s] all day, every day."
    • Mockingbird, watching her husband's press conference about Katherine FitzSimmons's death and his scapegoating of Diego Beltran, is only interested in the description of the exotic pearl earrings the dead woman was wearing, and immediately sets out to find a pair for herself.
  • In Memoriam: Hiaasen dedicated the novel to his younger brother Rob who was killed in the mass shooting at the offices of the Maryland newspaper The Capital in 2018.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Chief Jerry Crosby keeps a bong in his desk for "emergencies"; after being summoned to Casa Bellicosa to escort the President's mistress discreetly off the grounds, he locks himself in his office and "for the first time in his police career, got baked while on duty."
    • Mockingbird "vapes like a fiend" on medical marijuana before and after any face-to-face encounter with her husband.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Stanleigh Kobo weeps like a baby (twice) when the Secret Service tells him he can't bring a Chinese spy (who promised him a "last hope" erectile dysfunction cure in exchange) as his date to the President's fundraiser;
  • Insane Troll Logic: When an unemployed car mechanic's dead body is found floating near Casa Bellicosa, Fay Alex Riptoad immediately calls the White House and demands that the Secret Service reinstate the Potussies' protection details:
    Fay Alex: How do you know the DBC-88 didn't murder that poor man and make it look like an accident?
    Aide: What's the DBC-88?
    Fay Alex: It's the Diego Border Cartel.
    Aide: Yes, of course. And remind me what the 88 stands for?
    Fay Alex: How the hell should I know? It's probably gang code.
    Aide: But why would they target an unemployed transmission mechanic?
    Fay Alex: For his political loyalties! Same reason they killed Kiki Pew FitzSimmons: for standing loudly and proudly with POTUS.
    Aide: According to our information, Mr. Huppler had no involvement in politics. In fact, he'd never registered to vote.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • In his previous novel, Stormy Weather, Skink says, "did you know mastodons once roamed Florida? Eons before your ancestors began their ruinous copulations. Mastodons as big as cement trucks!" In Squeeze Me, the President, who spends half the year at his "Winter White House" in Palm Beach, is code-named "Mastodon" by the Secret Service.
    • Burmese pythons are repeatedly referenced as an invasive species; one of their actions is attributed to imaginary "hordes" of illegal immigrants "invading" the country.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: Hiaasen often employs the written equivalent of a Smash Cut to contrast two different characters or viewpoints:
  • It's All About Me: Mastodon, Mockingbird, and the Potussies, in almost equal measure.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Hiaasen often specializes in creating a scene in which the hero/protagonist confronts the villain(s), trying to understand the motives for their actions, but always ends up unsatisfied with the outcome, when the villains turn out to be just as lazy, greedy, shallow and vacuous as their actions make them appear.
    • With Mastodon, nobody bothers to try.
    • A lesser example is the First Lady: she is fully aware of her husband's social media campaign to scapegoat Diego Beltran for the murder of Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, but doesn't say a word in protest, or bother to confront him, until Angie threatens to reveal her affair with Ahmet/Keith.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Palm Beach Police Chief Jerry Crosby is genuinely sickened by the President's scapegoating of Diego Beltran, but is helpless to do anything.
  • Literal Disarming: After arresting Pruitt for killing a fawn, Angie makes a point of feeding the hand he was holding his butcher knife in to an alligator.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Stanleigh Kobo, the brother of one of the Potussies, is so desperate for a "presentable erection" that he agrees to bring a known Chinese intelligence agent as his date to the President's ball, in exchange for "five grams of powdered narwhal tusk".
  • Loosely Based on a True Story: In one memorable passage, the POTUS Pussies reflect that they have stayed steadfastly loyal to Mastodon through all of the "phony" scandals, including the "fraudulent impeachment trials"; at the time the novel was published, in August 2020, the current president of the United States had only been impeached once, and Hiaasen admitted on Goodreads that he did not expect it to happen again;
  • Loving a Shadow:
    • in private conversation with Ryscamp, Ahmet/Keith defends his affair with the First Lady, insisting that in private "she's nothing like the person you read about in the media", that he is willing to give up his career for her, and he honestly believes she will divorce her husband after he leaves office. When this doesn't happen, he dumps her in disgust and transfers out of Florida.
    • The POTUS Pussies are all infuriated by Mockingbird's aloof relationship with Mastodon, whom they all find "enormously attractive"; any one of them would agree to be his new wife in a heartbeat... if he could remember any of their names.
  • Machete Mayhem: Subverted. Angie uses a machete (twice) to dispatch an invasive python, not because she is Ax-Crazy, but because it is quieter and less dangerous to bystanders than using a gun.
  • Malaproper: Mastodon, to the Nth degree.
    • After he tweets about Diego Beltran's arrest, Fay Alex Riptoad is very proud after reading the entire tweet out loud to the Potussies, since the President clearly fired it off without waiting for his "full-time proofreader."
    • Impressively, while saluting Kiki Pew's two sons at his fundraiser, he manages to refer to them by six different first names in the same speech, not one of which is correct;
    • During the same fundraiser: "One of the most smartest, articulatest, and hottest women in the world... my tremendous wife!"
  • Mama Bear: Angie is used to shrugging off Pruitt's death threats as harmless, but when he extends his threats to her stepson and his girlfriend? Big mistake.
  • Marriage of Convenience: It's the world's worst-kept secret that Mastodon and Mockingbird sleep in separate rooms and have not exchanged so much as a "handy" in years. In their few private conversations, she makes no attempt to hide that she finds him repulsive on all levels, and he has given up asking her for any "favors" beyond the occasional public appearance with his campaign contributors or business associates.
    • In the updated epilogue, it is explicitly stated that their relationship is governed by a "companionship contract", which pays her handsomely for acting as his wife, with hefty "performance bonuses" for additional gestures such as touching his hand in public or appearing at his side at formal functions.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • The President's Florida resort/mansion is named "Casa Bellicosa" in the novel; in Spanish this means "Beautiful House" but it is only a short leap from "casus belli" (Latin, "cause for war", or literally, "reason to get angry")
    • As one reviewer pointed out, the President's Secret Service codename, "Mastodon" is only a short linguistic leap from "Master Don."
    • Ahmet Youssef, the First Lady's lead Secret Service Agent, had his name changed to "Keith Josephson" just before being assigned, to avoid her husband's "festering distrust of Muslims"; after transferring off her detail, he discards the alias and reverts to his birth name;
  • Mistaken for Racist: When rhapsodizing about his recently-deceased "close personal friend", Katherine "Kiki" Pew Fitzsimmons, Mastodon repeatedly pronounces her nickname, "Kikey". Ryscamp has to cover his ears.
  • Money Is Not Power: Partially averted, partially subverted. Of course money is power, especially in Palm Beach, but what grates on the Potussies' pride, and what explains their fanatic support of Mastodon as President, is the pesky notion that their money doesn't give them complete freedom of action, including immunity from the laws that normally govern "civilians", or total protection from the random events that can happen to anyone in Florida - such as getting swallowed by an eighteen-foot python on the grounds of an island estate during a charity ball.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: Despite the proliferation of Burmese pythons in South Florida, Angie, a professional wildlife wrangler, is surprised to find one as far north as Palm Beach, which is normally too cold for them to survive. Although this proliferation has been widely publicized, none of Palm Beach's residents are prepared when they actually see one.
    • Lampshaded in the ending, when Skink reveals that the python that killed and devoured Kiki Pew FitzSimmons was not "one of his", but instead "motored up there all by herself."
  • Never My Fault: After emerging from the toilet "red-faced from exertion", Mastodon yells at his valet for not fetching a larger dose of laxatives. Mockingbird acidly asks her husband whether he's considered cutting back his intake of red meat to "like, two pounds a day?"
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Fay Alex Riptoad fails to charm the Secret Service Agent assigned to protect her:
      She asked the agent to wait outside; his Arctic nod suggested he'd rather be waxing his nut sack than trailing Fay Alex around.
    • Mockingbird uses a "special" smile on Spalding, a South African waiter, when asking him for help in finding her a pair of special pearl earrings; he is charmed instantly;
    • (in the updated epilogue) whatever affection she has for him, Mockingbird clearly considers her bodyguard/boyfriend Ahmet Youssef to be the "sub" in their relationship, and considers it "jarringly out of character" when he breaks off their affair and transfers off her security detail after she refuses to divorce Mastodon.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The novel is centered around a "soulless imbecile" President of the United States and his ex-supermodel wife.
  • No Hero to His Valet: The Secret Service have no stars in their eyes when it comes to the First Family they are required to protect; various agents describe Mastodon as "a pathogen" and an "ignorant clown";
    • When one agent asks if there is any actual evidence that "terrorist immigrants" murdered Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, or that Diego Beltran has a connection to any such group, Ryscamp's terse response is that Mastodon "just pulled it out of his ass, like everything else."
    • likewise, Ryscamp doesn't bother to flatter the First Lady or pamper her self-importance during their conversation:
      Mockingbird: [M]y husband doesn't trust anyone with an Islamic name, or Jews, or blacks, or Asians, or Hispanics, or Mormons, or whatever. God, it's exhausting to keep track. With my accent, I'm amazed he married me.
  • No Party Given: Played With. While Angie doesn't hide her contempt for the current President, in her cynical opinion:
    It didn't seem to matter who was in power. Nothing got better in the besieged, breathtaking world she cared about most... the sitting President of the United States was a soulless imbecile who hated the outdoors, but in Angie's view, at this point Teddy Roosevelt himself couldn't turn the tide if he came back from the dead.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The President of the United States does not bother to take any official action to indict or convict Diego Beltran for Katherine FitzSimmons's murder, settling instead for scapegoating him in front of the press and on social media; nor does he take any official action against the "terrorist immigrants" that Diego supposedly represents; yet what little he does is more than enough to cause lynch mobs to assemble outside the jail, several racist inmates inside the prison to attempt to kill Diego, to force his defense lawyers to withdraw after receiving multiple death threats, and finally for Diego himself to attempt suicide.
  • Old Money: Every one of the Potussies inherited her wealth, and is identified by how her family made it:
    • Katherine "Kiki" Pew "of the aerosol Pews", married Huff Cornbright "of the anti-freeze and real estate Cornbrights" and later Mott FitzSimmons "of the asbestos and textile FitzSimmonses";
    • Fay Alex Riptoad "of the compost and iron ore Riptoads";
    • Deidre Cobo Lancome "of the dolomite Cobos and the windstorm-insurance Lancomes";
    • Yirma Sky Frick "of the personal lubricant Fricks";
    • Dee Wyndham "Dee Witty" Wittlefield "of the bauxite and lanolin Wittlefields"
    • Kelly Bean Drummond "of the processed soy Drummonds"
    • Dorothea "Dottie" Mars Bristol "of the aerospace Bristols (defiantly unrelated to the denture-paste Bristols)"
  • Only in Florida: Can you think of any other state where a novel could begin with an elderly widow being swallowed by an eighteen-foot python during a charity ball?
  • One-Hour Work Week: The Knob's job consists of lying on his back inside the President's tanning bed for 13 minutes each day; unfortunately he's such a slacker that he can't even manage that; after passing out drunk on the beach, he awakens at noon, sunburned from head to foot and unable to absorb artificial UV rays.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: For obvious reasons, the President and First Lady are never referred to by name, only by their titles or their Secret Service codenames.
  • Only Sane Man: Angie, Ryscamp, and Crosby.
  • Pandering to the Base: In-Universe. The President of the United States never engages in official duties of any kind, but he never misses a chance to play to his most rabid fans, which is why he becomes "almost giddy" at the chance to re-cast Diego Beltran as not just a murderer, but the leader of a "terrorist gang" targeting the President's richest and most loyal supporters; during the Commander's Ball, he takes a break from his mingling duties to duck into the bathroom and gleefully appraise the Twitter reaction to his latest incendiary speech.
  • Power is Sexy: Averted.
    • The President's latest mistress, a stripper named Suzie Spooner, defends her actions to Ryscamp by challenging him, "you know how many women out there would trade places? For the chance to bone a President, any President?" Ryscamp responds with evidence that she's already in negotiations to sell her story to a New York publisher.
    • In the updated epilogue, the ex-President propositions Angie in private, but has "no backup lines prepared" when she politely responds, "No offense, but I'd rather put my head in a wood chipper".
  • The Power of Language: The reviewer for The New Republic described the novel's version of the President as "at once an idiot and a man possessing incalculable power"; the President is never shown engaged in official duties of any kind, yet rampant consequences occur every time he opens his mouth, especially on social media; lampshaded by the following exchange between Ryscamp and another Secret Service Agent:
    Agent: "You think he could be right about this Diego kid being involved in the old lady's death?"
    Ryscamp: "Don't you get it? It doesn't fucking matter whether he's right or not. That's the scary part."
  • Racist Grandma: the POTUS Pussies social club; subverted in that there is nothing funny about their racism, as they fully embrace the President's "fake populist narrative" about illegal immigrants "charging like rabid wolverines across the borders", and enthusiastically support his social media campaign to denounce Diego Beltran as not only the murderer of their recently deceased friend, but also the leader of a "border cartel" targeting all of the President's most loyal supporters; there are even oblique hints that they are the ones who place the bounty on Diego's life that lead to several murder attempts while he is in prison;
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Squeeze Me was released in August 2020, taking place in a hypothetical aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Mastodon was still the President of the United States. Hiaasen wrote an updated epilogue for the novel's paperback release in May 2021, taking account of the "bizarre real-life incidents" following the November 2020 election. Among other changes, Mastodon is no longer President, and his socialite fan club have been blacklisted from the Palm Beach charity event circuit after the Capitol riots. Also, Mockingbird is much less sympathetically portrayed in the updated epilogue than she was in the main novel (her Secret Service lover dumps her after she admits she has no plans to divorce her husband, simply because she is getting paid too well for appearing with him in public).
  • Recurring Character: Former governor Clint Tyree (though he prefers to be called "Skink" or "Captain") appears in six of Hiaasen's novels, state trooper Jim Tile appears in five.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Retired Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Tile gate-crashes the President's fundraiser in Palm Beach. When Angie asks how he scored an invitation, he laughs and says he didn't, but asks whether she honestly believes any of the guests or staff will try to turn away "the only black man in a tuxedo in this whole damn zip code?"
  • Rich Bitch: The Potussies. In the words of the reviewer for The New Republic: "By setting Squeeze Me in Palm Beach, Hiaasen focuses squarely on the president's wealthiest supporters - the true heart of his base... These people support [the President] because they have nothing but disdain for everyone beneath them - it's a way of acting out fantasies of punishing the poor and the non-white."
    • Mockingbird, to a lesser degree. In the main novel, most of the characters, and the reader, might feel somewhat sorry for her, being "lonely, bored out of her mind", and desperately needing to distract herself from her "ghastly husband". But she takes plenty of solace in shopping, expensive jewels, and a "super-sloppy hot affair" with her lead Secret Service Agent. When Angie confronts her and demands that she intercede with the President on Diego Beltran's behalf, Mockingbird is genuinely baffled at why Angie cares, or why Mockingbird should be expected to do anything.
      • (in the updated epilogue) Mockingbird is equally baffled when her bodyguard/lover expects her to divorce her husband for the sake of their relationship. After he dumps her, she's "extra testy" to her remaining agents and the staff at Casa Bellicosa.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Stanleigh Kobo, the brother of one of the Potussies, is so desperate for a "presentable erection" that he agrees to bring a known Chinese intelligence agent as his date to the President's ball, in exchange for "five grams of powdered narwhal tusk". Ryscamp manages to persuade him to dump his date by offering him a baggie of the same substance - which is actually "an improvised blend of baking soda and cupcake mix, cut with jock-itch talc". Naturally, Kobo doesn't bother to test the powder before eagerly inhaling it.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: narrowly averted. Mockingbird encourages Ahmet/Keith to engage in some public flirting with an attractive female agent on her detail, to quash rumors about their affair, but shuts down the scheme in a jealous rage when it appears the two agents are genuinely getting close to each other.
  • Safety in Indifference: Averted when Jim Tile pleads with his old friend, Skink:
    Jim: You told me you gave up a long time ago.
    Skink: It's no longer possible to look away and live with myself.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Averted. Fay Alex Riptoad and the other Potussies assume the President is "very fond" of them, and that Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons' death will immediately capture his attention. They remain unaware, or else can't admit, that the President counts on their financial support, but has never bothered to distinguish them, by name or appearance, from the dozens of other "lacquered weekend warriors" who cheer his appearances at Casa Bellicosa.
    • When a White House aide politely deflects Fay Alex's demand that the Secret Service reinstate the Potussies' protection details, she threatens to speak with the President personally that very evening. The aide is unimpressed, knowing exactly how likely that is to happen.
    • (in the updated epilogue) The Potussies catch sight of Mastodon on a balcony at Casa Bellicosa but, embarrassed by his disheveled appearance, decide not to wave and pretend not to have noticed him. Mastodon has already noticed the women, but doesn't have a clue who they are:
      Without their garish patriotic costumes, they looked like ordinary club members. Bridge players, maybe. There was a seniors' league on weekends.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Fay Alex Riptoad and the Potussies:
    • habitually refer to anyone who isn't as rich as they are as "civilians";
    • when Chief Crosby describes the initial search for the missing Kiki Pew:
      Crosby: I asked the state to do a Silver Alert, but-
      Fay Alex: Anybody can get a Silver Alert, even on the mainland. Isn't there a premium version for people like us? A Platinum Alert, something like that.
    • later, when delivering an update on the same search:
      Crosby: Do you know how many people Mrs. Fitzsimmons's age go missing in Florida? Every day?
      Fay Alex: Surely they've got a ranking system! You're telling me, what, that some senile, retired shoe salesman who wanders away from a retirement home could knock someone as important as Kiki Pew off the top of the list?
  • Shown Their Work: Hiaasen, a former investigative reporter, does his homework, and the novel treats the reader to two "lectures" on the proliferation of Burmese pythons in South Florida, and the rise, fall, and resurgence of the market for conch pearls.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: take your pick.
    • Mastodon, naturally: He threatens his wife, "I am the President of the United Goddamn States of America!" just before she threatens to do a one-on-one interview for TMZ and expose every single skeleton he has buried in his closet, leaving him speechless.
    • The Potussies are having the time of their lives after Kiki Pew's death, becoming the media darlings of the President's latest social media "crusade", and believing that it elevates them to the status of White House advisors. They refuse to admit that Mastodon can't even remember their names, or Kiki Pew's (which he keeps mispronouncing).
  • Society Is to Blame: Subverted. House burglar Uric Burns came from "an unbroken home", made Bs and Cs in high school and dated three nice girls, but his decision to quit his job as a furniture salesman at Brandsmart was nothing more mysterious than unbound laziness and the appeal of setting his own casual hours."
  • Spoiled Brat:
    • Kiki Pew FitzSimmons's two sons, Chase and Chance Cornbright; after their mother's death, they immediately buy a yacht and a pair of supercharged Jetskis; their maiden ride on them leaves them with multiple broken bones;
    • Mastodon has a shipment of Key Lime Pies brought to Casa Bellicosa from a bakery in Marathon, Florida every day (when he's in Washington, D.C. a U.S. Navy plane ferries them there from Key West); when a giant Burmese python is slipped into his latest shipment, the kitchen staff are so terrified of his reaction that one of them decides to sneak past the python to grab the one intact pie.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Angie is called to remove a python from a tree on the grounds of a charity gala, quietly and discreetly. She points out that this is impossible unless the snake is euthanized first (removing it while it is still alive, she explains, will take six of your strongest security guys" all of whom will need changes of clothes since "a python that size shits like a fire hose.")
  • Stupid Crooks: Uric Burns and Prince Paladin.
  • Sub-Par Supremacist: One of the inmates who tries to kill Diego Beltran in jail is flattered to be approached by a representative from a white supremacist gang and offered a bounty, on which he offers an "Aryan discount". Having never actually killed anyone before, he makes the mistake of thinking his improvised shiv will compensate for his poor planning and lack of foresight (including that Diego was trained as a boxer in college).
  • Surprisingly Good English: Diego Beltran, a Honduran exchange student who earned a B.A. from the University of Miami, and Christian, the Danish maintenance technician for the President's personal tanning beds, both speak flawless English. When Diego is arrested by ICE, the arresting officer needs to check three times to confirm that he is not a native-born American citizen;
  • Swapped Roles: When Clinton Tyree (Skink) served as governor of Florida, Jim Tile was his chief bodyguard and chauffeur; at the novel's end, the retired Tile gate-crashes the President's fundraising gala in Palm Beach, and is later chauffeured away by Skink.
  • Take That!:
    • Hiaasen never misses an opportunity to jab at Disney. In this novel, a Russian stripper has Jiminy Cricket tattooed on each buttock, declaring herself a huge fan of all the animated movies; later, Fay Alex mentions that the Palm Beach Bath Club is hosting a "Disney-themed mixer for Peyronie's Syndrome Awareness Week" (i.e., for men with crooked penises)
    • Hiaasen does not mince words in his description of his fictional President: "a soulless imbecile who hate[s] the outdoors", has a "gerbil-like attention span" and "look[s]... as if someone had put a fire hose up his ass and inflated him with meringue."
  • This Bear Was Framed: Inverted; a large Burmese python is in fact responsible for Kiki Pew FitzSimmons's death, but everyone who learns this (with the exception of Angie) goes out of their way to pin her death on a human actor, and the idea of her being swallowed by a snake is too much for the public at large to accept;
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: Hiaasen likes to have fun with this trope.
    ...However, the proliferation of Burmese pythons throughout South Florida-and their indiscriminate feeding habits-are accurately represented.
  • Trophy Wife: Mockingbird never bothers to deny it, even in her own head.
  • Trumplica: Fairly obvious.
  • Twist Ending: Angie (and the reader) are naturally led to believe that Skink was responsible for releasing the python that killed Katherine FitzSimmons and set the novel's events in motion. She is stunned when he says that the python was not one of his, instead it was a random occurrence that inspired Skink's idea to breed and release additional pythons.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Uric Burns, seeing the First Lady arrive at Lipid House for a charity event, tries and fails to imagine "this sleek, gorgeous woman hopping into bed with someone as soft and mountainous as the President."
  • Undignified Death: Uric Burns is hung from a bridge by a short noose. His body is discovered when a fly fisherman accidentally snags the zipper of his trousers.
  • We Are Everywhere: By an accident of circumstance, Diego Beltran, an innocent Honduran college student, is accused by the President of killing Kiki Pew FitzSimmons, and linked in some nebulous way with "hordes" of illegal Hispanic immigrants "charging like rabid wolverines across the borders." Before long, Diego has mutated in the public's eye into the leader of a "ruthless border cartel" dubbed "DBC-88" (or "77" or "69"); it is deliberately ambiguous which of these ideas originate with the President, the right-wing media, or the Potussies, but all of them are embraced by all three as established fact.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Skink
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A staple of Hiaasen's novels.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Averted, since Angie is not afraid of snakes and finds them beautiful. Crosby and Ryscamp both freely admit that they and several of their men are terrified of them.
  • Women Are Delicate: Subverted; most of Angie's clients are surprised to learn she's a professional wildlife wrangler, being "female, five foot three, and barely a hundred pounds" but she quickly demonstrates that what's required for her job is not muscular strength but rather straightforward action and a lack of fear; Angie herself points out that, in her experience, the larger a man is, the more likely he is to be terrified of snakes.
  • Write What You Know: Hiaasen interviewed several animal wranglers as research for his young adult novel, Chomp.
  • Wrongfully Accused: Diego Beltran.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Uric Burns strangles his partner, "Prince Paladin" to death, once he worries that they will get caught, and the Prince confesses that he "grassed" on his previous partners;