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Spanking Watson: A Novel (Kinky Friedman Novels) Hardcover – September 15, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The same bizarre mixture of ingredients that has turned Kinky Friedman from a country musician into a popular mystery writer and hero of his own series continues in this exercise oddity, which, true to form, seems to contain something to offend virtually everyone. "If you spend a little time with lesbians and nuns, you begin to see the effect love or the absence of it can have on a human life," muses the Kinkster at one point. This comes after a campaign by Friedman to terrorize his upstairs neighbor, Winnie Katz, whose lesbian dance classes have caused the ceiling of his Greenwich Village loft to collapse. But Kinky's amateur terrorism pales by comparison to the mysterious person who wants to do some real damage to Winnie, so Friedman and his Village Irregulars turn from aggressors to protectors. Surrounded by Italian gangsters with names like Linguini and Gepetto, they plan a weird revenge scheme that involves such horrors as chainsaws and Friedman in a red wig.

The title--usually the best thing about a Kinkster book--has to do with which particular member of his motley crew will be officially chosen to play Watson to his Sherlock. But even here there are no clear answers: as Friedman says, "President Clinton is Watson. The Chinese dwarf who paints pastels on Mott Street is Watson. The world is Watson. Only Sherlock Holmes stands achingly alone on the weather-beaten, worm-eaten cross of rational thought. Sherlock Holmes, you see, is the thinking man's Jesus Christ."

--Dick Adler

From Publishers Weekly

Frenetic amateur PI Kinky Friedman is up to his old tricks in this campy mixture of bawdy surrealism and Tom Sawyerish pranks. Kinky's sleuthing duties have taken a decidedly sluggish turn when the roof literally comes crashing in. His upstairs neighbor, Winnie Katz, a lesbian dance instructor, has been stomping through dance routines with her students for weeks on end and all the pounding has taken its toll on Kinky's crumbling ceiling. Kinky calls in an old favor from a mob-connected friend, and suddenly finds two oafish Italian workmen at his door promising to repair the ceiling as a favor to Joey the Hyena. The Hyena is indebted to Kinky for saving his daughter from a mugger, but Kinky learns from the workmen that Joey's daughter died three years before Kinky saved her. Annoyed that his Manhattan loft is virtually under siege and by the twist in the story of the daughter, Kinky decides to divert himself by writing death threats to Winnie. In an impulsive move, Kinky takes the prank one step further by offering Winnie the services of his good friends, aka "The Village Irregulars," to ferret out the source of the threats. The five "Watsons" are no sooner ensnared in Kinky's humorous web of deceit than a real stalker appears on the scene, threatening to kill Winnie for real. All's well that ends well in this slim mystery, but the ultimate moment of truth falls flat. Hardy fans of the indomitable Friedman won't be disappointed, however, with this rollicking followup to Blast from the Past. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Kinky Friedman Novels
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684850613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684850610
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,257,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I think some of the other reviewers here were right on target when they suggested that Kinky missed a beat here, and that this book was strangely unsatisfying. I know these novels are formulaic and not really plot-driven, but here the plot is virtually non-existent! The action, aside from some trips to eat with the Village Irregulars, takes place almost entirely in Friedman's building on VanDam Street in NYC. There are hardly any outside characters, aside from the espresso-swilling, mob-connected plasterers working on Kinky's ceiling after Winnie's lesbian dance class causes his ceiling to crumble. Even the "mystery" of the plot is a sham, as Kinky invents an imaginary stalker of Winnie to aggravate his neighbor and sets the Irregulars in motion to help solve the identity of the stalker.
I have read a couple of other Friedman books, and maybe the repetition here is just starting to wear on me. How many times do we readers need to be reminded about how the author lights his cigars, "keeping the match just under the tip..." How many times can he make a witty observation to the cat and then claim tongue in cheek : "The cat, of course, said nothing"? That line is present at least 25 times in this book, mostly cause Kinky never leaves the apartment. Also, as a little nugget for his high-brow fans, Friedman throws in references to some of his famous readers, like Don Imus, Bill Clinton and Joseph Heller, in gratitude for their kind words I suppose.
Perhaps the most baffling part of the book, for me, was an incomprehensible aside for about 3 pages where the author describes Jesus as being the original hip Texas Jewboy, and then traces the lineage to modern hip "Jewboys" like Joseph Heller and Abbie Hoffman.
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Format: Hardcover
Again Friedman writes in a strange and unique voice. Again, as with Parker's Spenser, the plot is subordinate to the characters' interactions and, more importantly here, the voice of the narrator. The plot is slight: Kinky decides to harass the lesbian dance instructor upstairs and, simultaneously, tries to find out about a woman whose life he once saved ~ and wouldn't you know it, she's right upstairs. Curiously, i found this less satisfying than the previous Friedman i've read. I began to find the characters blurring before mine eyes until, at one point, i couldn't tell McGovern from Brennan ~ and discovered i didn't really care. Not a disaster; not even a waste of time; but i no longer have that wonderful feeling that i *will* read the next Friedman i come across.
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Format: Paperback
"Spanking Watson" is Kinky's eleventh book, and was first published in 1999. As with his other books, Kinky has cast himself as the amateur-PI hero, while some of the other characters have been based on actual friends. As with real-life, the book's Kinky is a cigar-smoking, cat-loving, espresso-guzzling, whiskey-drinking, ex-country and western performer. He shares his loft on Vandam Street with his cat - who he occasionally leaves in charge. Conversations between Kinky and the cat tend to be somewhat one-sided, while the cat consistently refuses to answer the telephone.

Winnie Katz still lives upstairs, and continues to run her lesbian dance classes. While this has never caused Kinky any serious problem before, it's been the cause of a slight inconvenience now : the constant pounding on Winnie's floor has left a rather large hole in the Kinkster's roof. Rambam, a genuine PI and Village Irregular, has arranged for two repairmen to help out - Vinnie and Gepetto, known "associates" of Joe the Hyena. Kinky had received his espresso machine several years earlier from Joe, a token of thanks for rescuing his daughter from a mugger. Vinnie and Gepetto, admiring the machine, tell Kinky there's only one problem : Joe doesn't have a daughter. Obviously, Kinky's curious - but Joe is, of course, the sort of Italian "businessman" you don't get curious about.

On a lonely Friday night, in an anger encouraged by several generous helpings of Jameson's Whiskey, Kinky writes a series of threatening letters to Winnie - never, of course,with any intention of delivering them, never mind acting on them. When Ratso catches sight of them the next day, Kinky decides to put them to good use.
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Format: Paperback
I approach anything written by Kinky Friedman with some caution. His prose, while addictive, may also be mind-altering. After all, anyone who goes to the bathroom after a big meal and takes a Nixon can't be all bad.
The problem with this novel, however, is that the Kinkstah was repeating himself. Yeah, we know he has a good looking neighbor for whom he lusts. Yeah, we know he has a lesbian dance class in the apartment above his. Yeah, we know that a cigar half-smoked and then placed in his vest to age gets gamier, and we even know how he went about lighting it, because every time he lights up, he tells us exactly how it's done.
Which doesn't take anything away from him. Kinky's novels are always entertaining and readable, often ribald, and rarely dull. Except for 'Spanking Watson'. I had to push myself to finish it. I didn't care about Kinky's ceiling, or the fact that his ethnic handymen talked him into a fireplace. I didn't really care that his upstairs neighbor was in jeopardy, which she really wasn't--at least, not at first--because Kinky had written the threatening note after downing too many Jameson's.
Would I recommend the novel to a friend? Sure, providing he or she was a committed Kinky fan. For a new reader, however, this novel would not be a good place to start. There are lots of places in 'Spanking Watson' where it's too easy to put the book down and not pick it up again. Would I buy the next Kinky novel? Of course I would because I'm a committed fan. I just hope that our amateur sleuth gets back to the kind of amusing capers we've seen in his earlier works.
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