Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Kinky Friedman’

Heroes of a Texas Childhood by Kinky Friedman

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Kinky Friedman’s collection, Heroes of a Texas Childhood made me think about who my heroes are.

My heroes aren’t as famous as some of the people Kinky Friedman writes about, but the thing we have in common is that our heroes have done or are doing extraordinary things because it is the right thing to do.

23 people, some famous and some completely unknown get a small chapter each in this book, with an explanation of who they are or were, when they did whatever they did and why they matter. The ‘where’ is obviously the Texan connection. Not all of Kinky Friedman’s heroes are Texan, but all have done something for Texas.

One of these was Ace Reid, an artist best known for his Cowpokes cartoon series which looked at the funny side of life on a ranch, particularly during times of general poverty.

Another was Lottie Cotton, who worked for Kinky Friedman’s parents and became a loved friend of the family.

Tom Friedman is the author’s father and another of his heroes and in an ideal world, all fathers should be heroes to their children.

Molly Ivins was a politician who told people the truth as she saw it, with humour. Barbara Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas senate, an underdog who believed in herself and her country. Ann Richards was a governor of Texas who saved the state six billion dollars by reforming bureaucracy.

I had heard of Audie Murphy but thought he was just an actor in Westerns from the 1940s and 50s. Now I know that he was also a war hero whose bravery made him one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War 2.

Sam Rayburn was a politician who could not be bought, and Heman Sweatt was a black man who paved the way for would-be lawyers discriminated against because of their race. Lady Bird Johnson got her own chapter because she was an environmentalist long before there was a name for environmentalists.

Willie Nelson gets a chapter. He’s a hero to Kinky Friedman because of what he and his music mean to people.

Juan Seguin was the last man to leave the Alamo, riding out to round up people to fight with him against the Mexican army. Emily Morgan, also known as ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’, was a slave who distracted a Mexican General, allowing the Texans to win the Battle of San Jacinto. James Bonham died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett, whose story I knew a little of from watching the Disney features starring Fess Parker.

Quanah Parker was the last chief of the Comanches, guiding the Comanche people in the white man’s world after they had been forced onto a reservation.

I would like to read more about some of these people, most of whom were unknown to me before picking up this book. There must already be countless books about some of them, but others will never have any more written about them than their chapter in this book.

I enjoyed Kinky Friedman’s writing style in Heroes of a Texas Childhood just as much as I have the humour in his fiction.

 

 

 

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Ten Little New Yorkers by Kinky Friedman

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I have a Kinky Friedman story.

Many years ago, while living on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia, a local music promoter named Texas Dave used to bring Texan acts to Moruya, a small farming town. I saw several Blues and Country artists and quite a few who didn’t really fit into any genre in Moruya, thanks to Texas Dave’s promotions. Kinky Friedman was one of the acts who played at the Pearly Shells Hotel, located on the banks of the Moruya River. I believe the Pearly Shells is a nice place to go these days, but at the time, it was a dive, the kind of place you went to if you couldn’t get in anywhere else (because you were underage, or so smashed you had been kicked out of someplace else) but as always for Texas Dave’s shows, loads of people turned out to see Kinky Friedman.

I don’t remember much about his music, but Kinky Friedman told the audience in Moruya some really good stories. He wore a moustache, a huge hat and had a big cigar and was travelling with a former Miss Texas. My strongest memory of the night was Miss Texas standing alone in the middle of the dance floor giving a demonstration of line dancing, which hadn’t been seen in Moruya before. Miss Texas was wearing a big hat of her own, a short skirt and cowboy boots, but she couldn’t get anyone in the Pearly Shells to join her on the dance floor. I remember commenting to someone that I didn’t think line dancing was going to take off in Australia. (I was wrong).

Ten Little New Yorkers is the first Kinky Friedman book I’ve read. I think I tried reading one years ago (probably around the time of the Pearly Shells show) but found his humour not to be to my taste at the time. My outlook has obviously broadened as I’ve gotten older, as I roared laughing quite a few times while reading Ten Little New Yorkers and thoroughly enjoyed the story. The author may not be politically correct, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t funny, and to be fair, he doesn’t discriminate when he takes a humorous swipe. Everyone is fair game.

The author actually stars in Ten Little New Yorkers as a fictionalised version of himself. The Kinkster lives in New York and is a detective, with a missing cat, a cast of unusual friends, neighbours and associates. The story starts with a friend of Kinky’s explaining that the words in this novel are directly from a diary left by Kinky.

The plot is quite slim, but the humour and side stories fill the story out considerably. The story is that murders are occurring in the neighbourhood and Kinky seems to have been framed for them. The victims are all men who have physically or emotionally harmed women.

As a whodunit, I found it quite easy to find the link between the murders and the murderer, as I’m sure most other readers did also. The simplicity of the ‘whodunnit’ really doesn’t matter, as the story is enjoyable. As a character, Kinky is clever and funny and enormously likeable. The title seems to be a tribute to an Agatha Christie novel with a similar title where the victims are picked off one by one (although if I remember rightly, I couldn’t pick the murderer in Christie’s book).

So, if there is a moral to my story, I think it is to give things another go, even if you don’t get them the first time around. I will read more Kinky Friedman stories.  I have also been known to take part in line dances.

 

 

 

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