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Review: Kinky Friedman's annoying yet entertaining 'Club'


"The Mile High Club"
By Kinky Friedman
Simon & Schuster
224 pages

(CNN) -- Only in a Kinky Friedman book could cat excrement play as large a role as it does in "The Mile High Club," the 13th in a series of novels featuring the former country singer as an amateur detective.

Friedman's stories are characterized by bathroom humor, tales of alcoholic and narcotic excess, and nonstop one-liners that are about as subtle as a runaway cement mixer. In between Mr. Friedman's own unique takes on love, greed, and New York, the author stocks his plots with his own friends, the "Village Irregulars": reporter Mike McGovern, editor Larry "Ratso" Sloman and "technical advisor" Steve Rambam.

"The Mile High Club" begins, appropriately enough, on a plane, with the author jetting from his Texas ranch back to New York and hitting on the woman seated next to him named Khadija (who, when asked about her name, informs him, "it means 'Woman Who Understands Why You Have Trouble Meeting Chicks On Airplanes' ").

It's none of his business when she never returns from the restroom to claim the little pink suitcase she asked him to watch. Nor should it concern him that he receives two calls within the next 24 hours by parties interested in its contents. He's more interested in his Montecristo cigars and Jameson whiskey ("the drink that kept the Irish from taking over the world"), and with trying to patch up the relations between himself and the Irregulars, still smarting from his ministrations in his previous novel, "Spanking Watson."

("Spanking Watson" itself is shamelessly hyped throughout "The Mile High Club," suggesting weak hardcover sales despite a mountain of favorable press clips. Friedman seems well aware of the serial writer's axiom that the new hardcover promotes the old paperback.)

But his friends get the best of him, and while Ratso initiates a campaign of libidinous spying on Kinky's beautiful ex from upstairs, Rambam coaxes Khadija's suitcase open -- and discovers a treasure chest of fake passports.

Double meaning

The double meaning of "The Mile High Club" is all too clear at this point, and the word "terrorist" begins appearing in nearly every other sentence. To freshen things up, the author begins piling on the cat droppings, beginning with the use of a cat litter box as a sure place to stash the goods (a ploy which has worked well for him in his other books). "Why do you think God sent these passports wrapped to me in a Baggie?" he writes.

Kinky Friedman's latest, "The Mile High Club," combines humor, suspense, terrorism -- and cross-dressing  

His cat, angered by this misuse of her property, retaliates by defecating all over the house. Friedman shrugs off these acts, though he knows they'll have significant repercussions later. As he writes, "It was a big loft and it was a free country, and when you change the cat litter once every seven years whether it needs it or not you have to expect certain ramifications, not to mention certain defecations, to result from your actions or lack thereof."

Meanwhile Kinky and Khadija have an amorous encounter, during which he manages to figure out her none-too-subtle agenda for recovering her case and its contents. Masking her efforts with a trumped-up story about her brother Akhmed, Khadija storms out, soon to be replaced by a succession of relatives, State Department officials, and Mossad men (one of whom ends up dead on Kinky's toilet, prompting a chapter's worth of bad jokes). Now it's Kinky's job to get rid of the fake passports before one of the aforementioned parties gets to him -- or before he disappears in a sea of cat droppings.

The real strength of "The Mile High Club" isn't in its plot or characters, but in its author's uncanny -- he calls it "Talmudic" -- way of uniformly annoying everyone around him, including the reader. The novel is little more than an obnoxious stand-up routine on conspiracy theory, but Friedman knows how to keep his material just irritating enough to maintain interest. For this he deserves all the credit in the world -- even if he does drop in his song lyrics a little too blatantly for a detective novel: "I was hauled in by the Metro for killin' time and pain with the Singing' Brakeman screamin' through my veins," he writes while ruminating on the topic of public urination.

As with his songs, Friedman's books are entertainment in the oldest sense -- a way to laugh at ourselves. It will probably guarantee him a young readership that will surely sustain many future tales from "the Kinkster."

Kinky Friedman
Simon & Schuster

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