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Kinky Friedman's 'Ten Little New Yorkers'
Is Texas getting Kinky?
by Mark Anderson

inky Friedman has been called the Hunter Thompson of murder mysteries and the Frank Zappa of country music.

Being Kinky: "Ten Little New Yorkers" is Friedman's umpteenth novel.

Now, following his new novel, "Ten Little New Yorkers," Friedman would rather be called the next governor of Texas.

Singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, philosopher, native Texan, longtime New Yorker and would-be politician – Friedman has one of the entertainment world's oddest résumés.

In the '70s, he and his band, the Texas Jewboys, recorded songs like "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and "There's Something Wrong with the Beaver." The band landed a stint as an opening act with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review.

Through much of the '80s, Friedman turned Sundays at New York's Lone Star Cafe into a legendary Texas-meets-Greenwich Village musical free-for-all.

Then, in the mid-'80s, he began a steady string of salty murder mysteries starring an irreverent, streetwise amateur detective and semi-retired musician named ... Kinky Friedman.

"Ten Little New Yorkers," the umpteenth book in the series, finds a weary 60-something Friedman in contemplative mode, taking stock and looking for meaning as he heads toward life's last leg. Meanwhile, work is unusually scarce for fictional Big Apple private dicks and the only thing to turn up missing is the Kinkster's beloved longtime cat.

Writes Friedman: "... guys our age are in the seventh-inning stretch. I'm well aware that this rather arcane sports analogy may be lost upon Iranian mullahs and non-baseball fans, so let's just say that most of the game is over. Perhaps everybody does know what the seventh-inning stretch implies, it's just that most of the world is too young or too busy to take the time to care about what it means to baseball or to life. A lot of important and wonderful things can happen, of course, after the seventh-inning stretch, but statistically speaking, it's pretty fucking late in the game."

Making book: a surprise ending with room to recant if the governor thing doesn't work out.

Then comes the inevitable flurry of grisly murders – which begin to add up to 10 as they increasingly point toward our man Kinky.

But even the newcomers among us know better. And that the winding road of investigation is where the fun is.

Friedman dons his well-worn approximation of Sherlock to riff off his buddy Ratso's Watson, while a regular cast of neighbors, cops and an unusual assortment of friends (the Village Irregulars), along with a parade of attractive women and the requisite skanky miscreants, all seek either to create havoc or set things straight.

That's when the pun-filled wisecracking really kicks in. At its best, Friedman's prose is a pinball, careening wildly between wit, philosophy, bawdy situations, steady doses of cornpone yucks, flashes of cockeyed brilliance and ironic insight.

Other times the proceedings seem as if by formula and things fall a little flat.

But Friedman fans are pulled ever forward by the extreme likelihood of yet another snappy one-liner around every bend. Still, similarities among his books are such that, for most fans, the first of Friedman's tomes they happened to discover probably remains their favorite (1993's "Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola" is mine).

This time, however, there's a surprise ending (this reader started catching on just past the 100-page mark). Even so, the book's final page is in the form of an unexpected explanatory "news story" carrying the byline of "Jayson Blair," the disgraced fake New York Times journalist from a few years back.

Run, Kinky, run: Why not indeed?

In other words, Friedman has seemingly left himself room to take back his twist if this governor thing doesn't work out. He'll still have a couple innings to go and time to try out a few new positions.

At the same time and in the wake of governors Schwarzenegger and Ventura, why shouldn't Texas get Kinky?

Friedman, the son of a college professor, is a former Peace Corps volunteer who currently operates a rescue ranch for animals. His Web site spells out some favorite ideas (reforming education and the criminal justice system, establishing a Texas Peace Corps, developing alternative energy). He needs 50,000 signatures and his campaign as an independent is reportedly off to a pretty good start.

How hard? Maybe it's time to find out.

"I'm running against politics and those who toil in its lush, corrupt, rarely rotated fields," he says in a statement on the Web site. "I think musicians can better run this state than politicians. Hell, I believe beauticians could run it better than politicians."

The campaign slogan: "How Hard Could It Be?"

Naysayers will certainly sniff that a guy like Friedman doesn't have the proper qualifications. But, win or lose, he'll at least help grease the skids for the day when the right non-politician runs for president.

Ultimately, that's what it might take to wrest the country back from the crippling evils of the two-party system.

After all, what qualifications does one need to spend the next $300 billion on alternative energy, instead of a war in a desert?

The next move belongs to Texas. Will Texas get Kinky?

E-mail Mark at andersonenterprises@hotmail.com, and see more tripewriter.

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