Picks and Pans Review: Musical Chairs
by Kinky Friedman
A lot of people will be offended by this book. They'll say that it is often sexist, sometimes racist, occasionally puerile. What they probably won't say is that much of it is also funny and some of it downright hilarious.
Friedman is a middle-aged Jewish Texan who once had a country band called the Texas Jewboys. The Jew-boys were an occasionally offensive novelty act that enjoyed cult success in the '70s and early '80s. Kinky then reinvented himself as a mystery novelist (this is his fifth book) whose hero is Kinky Friedman, private eye. In a voice part Raymond Chandler, part Woody Allen, the Kinkster tries to solve a string of murders; one by one, his ex-bandmates are dying. Someone is killing the Jewboys of Texas.
It's a ridiculously self-referential plot, full of inside jokes only a Kinky cultist would get. But then, plot is beside the point: Friedman's strength—both here and as a musician—is in his wryly hard-boiled, sarcastic, hip sensibility. The story is really just a vehicle in which Kinky can riff on his favorite subjects: "It's safer to get between a pit bull and a throat than it is to stand between a newspaperman and a story." "Understanding normal broads...was about as likely as making eye contact with a unicorn."
Remarkably, the voice is so strong that most of the time you don't care if the story doesn't add up.
Even those who find Friedman's politically incorrect attitude winning, however, may lose patience with his mean-spirited jokes—particularly those directed at women in the novel's last quarter. Suddenly, there's real anger and unpleasantness in what had been a rollicking jam session of a novel. (Morrow, $18.95)
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