Monday, July 18, 2011

the last book I read

A Case Of Lone Star by Kinky Friedman.

The old Elmore Leonard/box of chocolates metaphor works just as well with the Kinkster's oeuvre, i.e. you know pretty much exactly what you're going to get. And that is: something short and snappy, probably comfortably under 200 pages, lots of wisecracking Chandler-on-acid humour, an actual mystery (usually involving murder) in there somewhere, and lots of tangential colour involving Kinky's Manhattan apartment, his cat, regular consumption of Jameson whiskey, Winnie Katz's lesbian dance class and Kinky's motley crew of friends and associates.

This one has Kinky called in to the Lone Star Café in downtown Manhattan to investigate the apparent murder of Larry Barkins of the Barkins Brothers with his own guitar (via repeated blows to the head). The killer has left a calling card - the lyrics to a Hank Williams song. Soon the bodies are piling up faster than the proprietor can clear them away: all country music artists, and all murdered in a way mirroring the lyrics of one of ole Hank's songs. Kinky reckons he knows what the killer's up to, but to catch him he's going to have to resurrect his semi-defunct former career as a country and western singer and offer himself up as bait by playing a gig at the Lone Star Café....

As I suggested during our previous encounter with the Kinkster, in general I reckon the earlier, snappier books are better: this one, published in 1987, seems to be the second one in the series. Spanking Watson dates from 1999 and in addition to being the latest one of the five I own, is also the only one to exceed 200 pages. I mean, it's only 217 (A Case Of Lone Star is a mere 166), so we're not talking major literary elephantiasis here, but there's just a suspicion of a bit of self-indulgent meandering going on.

Anyway, it's all very entertaining in a bone-dry, deadpan sort of way. It's interesting to see where Kinky mixes in real life with the fictional stuff: he really was a country singer, of a sort (here's They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore), Chet Flippo is real and really did write a biography of Hank Williams, and most bizarrely of all the story about Kinky playing chess with Samuel Reshevsky at the age of seven turns out to be true as well. Who knew?

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