Supermarket superhero

There are some authors with whom you simply can’t go wrong while cruising the supermarket paperback aisle.

Among them are Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey and Alan Dean Foster.

And then there’s Kinky Friedman.

Friedman has never written a boring supermarket paperback. Never.

Kinky Friedman is a former country-western Jewish musician from Texas who writes mystery novels about a Jewish former country-western musician from Texas who’s a private eye in New York City and who’s named, appropriately enough, Kinky Friedman.

Among his literary triumphs – the author’s, not the private eye’s – are “Armadillos & Old Lace” and “The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover” as well as “Roadkill” and “Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola.”

Friedman’s latest supermarket paperback is “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch,” and it’s got everything you’d want from a quality supermarket paperback – mystery, Irish whiskey, a missing three-legged cat and a loveable, fishhead-eating sidekick named Ratso.

And that’s not all. (But you’d already figured that out, right?)

“Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” (2003, Pocket Star Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., $6.99, 242 Pages) is a madcap romp that jumps back and forth from New York City to Texas like an armadillo on a hot tin roof.


The story opens with Kinky juggling three tough cases that were sent his way by Rambam, his “half-Jewish, half-law-abiding P.I. pal.”

Code-named Moe, Larry and Curly, the cases involve a possible serial killer, a missing 11-year-old autistic boy whose only spoken word is “shnay” and a third matter which Kinky describes only as an investigation “so big that it makes the Giant Rat of Sumatra look like Mickey Mouse.”

Kinky’s obviously going to be busy.

So he drinks a life-giving shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey from a bull horn, fires up one of the Cuban cigars he keeps in a ceramic bust of Sherlock Holmes and confers with his cat.

Eventually, he puts everything on the back burner while he heads for the strategically unimportant community of Utopia, Texas, from which Cousin Nancy has called to report her three-legged cat, Lucky, missing and possibly abducted.

Serial killer?

Lost child?

Missing three-legged cat?

Kinky doesn’t have to think twice. He’s going to find Lucky.

Fortunately, our private eye is fortified with a very definite philosophy about finding things:”If you’re trying to find children in trees, or dogs and cats in big green fields, or little shining pieces of happiness and love and peace in this world, you’ve pretty much got your work cut out for you because all these things are almost never really lost and almost never truly found.”

A great philosophy, but will it enable Kinky to locate the missing boy, rescue the abducted feline and still deal with Rambam’s suspected serial killer?

There’s only one way to find out, amigos. Get thee to a supermarket and secure your own copy of “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch.”

You’ll be glad you did.

Originally published November 23, 2003