Picks and Pans Review: God Bless John Wayne

updated 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman is to the detective novel what Frank Zappa is to rock and roll: a gleeful gadfly who delights in offending purists. Before he turned his hand to bothering crime lovers, Friedman needled pop fans with his 70s country group Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. His East Village sleuth is named Kinky Friedman, a "postnasal Sherlock Holmes." In the walk-up in lower Manhattan that he shares with an overworked espresso machine, a dwindling case of Irish whiskey and a nonplussed feline, the cigar-chomping detective observes, "If you always spent your time trying to entertain women and cats, life could be a hard room to work." You get the idea.

When the author gives the stand-up a rest, though, he constructs a knotty mystery. The Kinkster, as he likes to call himself, is asked by his pal Ratso, who is adopted, to search for his birth parents. The case takes a nasty turn when a Ratso look-alike is murdered. Kinky (no fool he) calls in a real P.I., his California friend Kent Perkins.

By the time this comedy of hits, runs and errors is sorted out, Ratso is rich, Kent is back in Malibu, and Kinky, a double espresso in hand, is observing that Jesus Christ "looks a little like Andy Gibb." There's just no stopping him. And who wants to? (Simon & Schuster, $22)

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