Kinky Friedman's 'Ten Little New Yorkers'
Texas getting Kinky?
Friedman has been called the Hunter Thompson of murder mysteries
and the Frank Zappa of country music.
Kinky: "Ten Little New Yorkers" is Friedman's
Now, following his new novel, "Ten Little New
Yorkers," Friedman would rather be called the next governor
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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?