The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by Kinky Friedman

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This is a hard one to judge as Friedman is such a character in real life, a former (unsuccessful) country music singer, former (unsuccessful) candidate for Governor of Texas, I guess his novels are the most successful parts of his public persona. He writes in first person and his protagonist is a former country singer turned private eye, whose name happens to be Kinky Friedman. You could be pretentious and say something like he blurs the line between fact and fiction, but I think he’s just having a hoot imagining himself as a private eye and dropping in real life famous pals’ names into the story as he goes. The problem for the reader (me) is that his fictional alter ego doesn’t have much agency. Huh? I mean, the fictional Friedman does stuff but has stuff done to him more often than not and the solution (such as it is) to the mystery is just handed to him without him having to face down any personal demons (fictional or real) to win the day. Not as groundbreaking or funny as Kurt Vonnegut, not as hardboiled or stylish as Raymond Chandler, but he’s somewhere between the two. I can’t say that I was transported to his world or that the mystery was particularly believable, perhaps it wasn’t supposed to be, but there were occasional delicious turns of phrase and knowing winks to the reader that made this 1996 romp worth a read. My favourite line was a the fictional (or real?) Friedman musing, “Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”

No. 14 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2020.

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Patrick Sherriff, an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at his conversation school in Abiko, Japan, with his wife, he writes and illustrates textbooks for non-native speakers of English, releases Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, essays and a monthly newsletter  highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. Saku’s Random Book Club is his latest project to spend more time with books.