Mysteriously Musical

He's the author of several tongue-in-cheek mystery novels. He's Texas's most self-aggrandizing son, handing out his personalized guitar picks to anything with a pulse. He's buddies with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. And his name is, umm, kinky.

Kinky Friedman, the acerbic Jewish writer-cum-novelty music act, is still up to no good, as usual.

Anyone who has met Friedman -- hell, even seen a photo of him -- has noticed the mischievous glint in his eyes and the sly grin on his wizened face. And one small taste of his work confirms it: This guy is the biggest smart-ass you'll ever encounter, and both glitterati and commoners love him for it. (While his press kits and book jackets describe him as living a "monastic" life with his menagerie of animals, we're not buying it. There's no way someone with that much personality isn't getting laid.)

Once called "the Frank Zappa of country music," Friedman established himself by performing satirical country songs with his band, the Texas Jewboys, before going solo in 1973. He went on to rub shoulders with the big dogs, collaborating with Eric Clapton on Lasso from El Paso (1976) and Dylan. Some of his songs were covered by Nelson, Tom Waits and Lyle Lovett, among others, on last year's Pearls in the Snow: The Songs of Kinky Friedman. Earlier this year Friedman released Classic Snatches from Europe, a live CD from his "reunion" tour of the continent with former Texas Jewboy Little Jewford. Hilarity ensues, to be sure.

Friedman has also got a new book to shill these days. (Actually, he has a new one out each year, but that's a screed for another day.) His bitingly humorous mystery novels, while hardly a challenging read, serve solely as a vehicle for the Kinkster (he's the hero of all his books) to rant about lesbian dance classes, cats and Jameson Irish Whiskey. With titles like The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover and Spanking Watson, you were expecting Pulitzer-caliber literature? His latest, The Mile High Club, due out in September, follows the Kinkster after he winds up with a pink suitcase filled with Middle Eastern passports. Even more hilarity ensues. As usual.

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Melanie Haupt