Cross Dressing

Cross Dressing

4.8 5
by Bill Fitzhugh

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Big-shot ad exec Dan Steele feels entitled to the best life has to offer — even if he has to live way beyond his means to acquire it. But there's hope on the horizon. Dan has just stolen what's sure to be an award-winning idea for a multimillion-dollar account. If he can keep the creditors at bay long enough, he'll get the keys to the executive restroom and


Big-shot ad exec Dan Steele feels entitled to the best life has to offer — even if he has to live way beyond his means to acquire it. But there's hope on the horizon. Dan has just stolen what's sure to be an award-winning idea for a multimillion-dollar account. If he can keep the creditors at bay long enough, he'll get the keys to the executive restroom and all his problems will be solved.

Unfortunately, that's when his brother, a Catholic priest, shows up at Dan's door in need of a loan to pay for some essential medical attention. Being both financially and morally challenged, Dan hands over his insurance card instead of his credit card. But it's too late. After running up a bill for $300,000, Father Michael goes the way of all flesh.

Now Dan has a choice: go to prison for insurance fraud or take a vow of poverty and become a man of the cloth. Before he can say "God bless," Dan finds himself pursued by a relentless insurance investigator, the psychopathic copywriter whose idea he stole, and a deadly killer from his brother's mysterious past. And, as if that wasn't enough, Dan finds himself falling in love with a gun-toting nun. Let us pray.

Editorial Reviews

“Fitzhugh seems to have been born with a gift of laughter along with a sense that the world is mad.”
“...a comic novel propelled by a wild plot...”
The Mirror (London)
“A rip-roaring farce of a thriller.”
Good Housekeeping
“Light, quirky, and occasionally irreverent, this is a totally entertaining urban myth.”
People Magazine
"...a comic novel propelled by a wild plot..."
Book Magazine
A strong, fast-paced third effort...a dynamite read.
Morning News Dallas
Where Bill Fitzhugh earned his Ph.D. in street smarts is a mystery. The wicked sense of humor he must have been born with...Lapsed Catholics should proceed to the front of the line.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What begins as an interesting equation of the advertising business and organized religion quickly degenerates into predictable slapstick humor in this somewhat crowded comic novel. Dan Steele, an up-and-coming creative director in a swank L.A. ad agency, is desperate to make partner. Trouble is, his manic-depressive mother, Ruth, periodically suffers bipolar episodes. Dan tries to help, but he's been living extravagantly and he's out of cash, so when lowly copywriter Scott Emmons comes up with the perfect ad campaign for a Japanese corporate client, Dan thinks it's only fair to steal Scott's idea. Scott goes postal with a .44 magnum, but before he can ventilate his sleazy superior, Dan has an unexpected visit from his long-lost twin brother, Michael, a priest back from a mission in Africa, where he witnessed Church and state corruption and tangled with a local warlord, who has left him with a terminal souvenir of his homeland. Dan switches identities with his brother so that Michael can be treated under his own health insurance, but Michael promptly dies and Dan is forced to continue his clerical impersonation to avoid felony insurance fraud. With the trappings of his former life repossessed and the maniacal Scott in pursuit, Dan finds a haven at last at a halfway house, where he meets Sister Peg, a transparently secular nun and antibureaucracy crusader. Sparks fly between the non-priest and non-nun; climax, fadeout and roll credits. Fitzhugh (Pest Control; The Organ Grinders) may have written Cross Dressing with deals in mind: according to the publisher, he even arranged with Seagram to feature their liquor products in his text. While he ably proves his comic wit on the printed page, and backs some of the novel's more informative sections with actual research, this novel is ultimately as slickly packaged and shallow as the industries it parodies. Film rights to Shady Acres/Universal Pictures and Shady Acres Entertainment. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Having taken on geneticists in his earlier efforts--of which his latest was The Organ Grinders--Fitzhugh turns his gimlet eye almost nostalgically to such tried-and-true satirical targets as advertising, the Catholic Church, and Los Angeles, demonstrating their staying power. Everything is finally coming together for rising advertising executive Dan Steele. His latest campaign (stolen from a colleague) is clearly considered the equal of "Where's the Beef?" Beverly is ready to lead him through the Kama Sutra, page by Technicolor page. It is then that things predictably start to unravel. His wronged colleague goes ballistic, he misses his rendezvous with Beverly, and his credit cards max out. When his twin brother, a Roman Catholic priest, returns from Africa to die, Dan happily assumes his identity only to learn that it's all a matter of image. Before his past catches up with him, it turns out that this slick operator fits almost too comfortably into the new Cat-o-Lite Church ("less guilt; more forgiveness"). Fans of other outrageous caper books, say, those by Elmore Leonard or Donald E. Westlake, might want to sample Fitzhugh. Fans of The Simpsons might keep Cross Dressing in mind during the summer rerun season. For all larger public libraries.--Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
A deft, funny, caper novel, incorporating (1) gleefully savage attacks on the Church, the advertising industry, and the charity industry, (2) occasionally heartfelt characters, and (3) an inspired marketing gimmick. While often compared to Carl Hiassen, Fitzhugh (Pest Control, 1997, etc.) is fast creating his own dark and funny category. In this third outing, amoral adman Dan Steele, up to his neck in debt and smug consumerism, is fish-out-of-watered when he steals the best idea of his career (`More is more`) from an unstable copywriter, just as Dan's twin brother Michael, an excommunicated do-gooder priest, returns from Africa, ill. Registered at the hospital as "Dan" for insurance coverage, Michael succumbs to tetanus, and, on the run from legal problems, insurance investigators, and his now-homicidal ex-colleague, Dan dons Michael's collar. As Father Michael, Dan goes to work at Sister Peg's Care Center, where he falls for Peg (fortunately, no more a nun than he is a priest). Predictably, Dan finds redemption caring for others, and he'll obviously save the financially teetering facility with his advertising savvy. Fitzhugh commits sins of inclusion as well: there are two hookers with hearts of gold; no fewer than four gunmen converging for the climax; and, not content to harpoon his satirical targets, Fitzhugh levels them with assault weapons, then jumps up and down on their heads. There's always a bit too much of everything, but the author's having so much fun that we do, too. To top it off, he claims ((has, we should say) a product placement deal—the first ever for a novel—with Seagram's, and you can hear him chortling through the ad-speak whenever Danisglowingly described sipping Scotch. Tut-tutting critics, sure to take him to task, guarantee an already likely bestseller an even higher profile. Smart, fast and funny. Fitzhugh is a dangerous man. Film rights to Universal Pictures and Shady Acres Productions

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car.
— Laurence J. Peter

Crouching behind a truck that was built Ford tough, Dan Steele had but one simple question. "How the hell did she end up with a gun?"

The man in the white jacket crouching next to Dan shrugged. "It's L.A. How do I know?"

Dan tugged habitually on his goatee as he considered how to deal with the armed woman who had taken the hostage from the nursing home and who was now hiding behind the driving excitement that was a Pontiac. Since Dan's job required him to deal with crises on a daily basis, he was usually calm, cool, and collected when this sort of thing hit the fan, but this was a different sort of thing. Dan seemed to be taking this personally.

It was just past ten o'clock and already it was ninetytwo degrees. It was going to be another miserable day in the San Fernando Valley, with hot yellow-brown air triggering another Stage Three Lung Alert. Dan carefully raised himself until he could see his reflection in the truck's side mirror. Given the circumstances, Dan thought it only appropriate that he looked like a sweaty cop in a good suit when in reality he was the creative director at an advertising agency.

Dan looked like the sort of guy you would see in a television beer commercial, playing football in the background with other guys who weren't quite good-looking enough to be featured in the spot. He had been a swimmer in college and had put on a little weight but had not gone completely to seed. The upwardly arching lines in his forehead looked like ripples coming off hiseyebrows, resulting in a cheerful appearance unmatched by his present disposition. His thick, dark hair was styled into a fashionable helmet. With his adequate physique, respectable looks, and not-too-shabby income, Dan seemed to have it all. But Dan, being in the advertising business, knew better than anyone that things aren't always what they appear to be.

He pushed his Armani frames up the slippery bridge of his nose, then looked quickly over the hood of the truck. The woman and her hostage were ten yards away. Dan ducked back into hiding position and turned to the man in the white coat. "Okay, here's the deal," Dan said as though he were in charge. "I'll create a diversion. You go for it."

The man looked at Dan and snorted. "You go for it."

Dan did little to hide his contempt. Who does this six-dollar-an-hour yahoo think he is? Out of force of habit, Dan assessed and categorized the man in marketing lifestyle-segmentation terms: unmarried, high-school-grad, apartment-dwelling, domestic-beer-drinking, TV-sports-watching, lower-middle-class nonvoter. He was a perfect sample from the psychographic cluster those in the advertising business called "Single City Stiffs." And wasn't this present scenario a perfect example of why we had demographic distinctions in the first place? People like Dan Steele didn't rush out from behind cars attempting to subdue armed crazy people. That was a job for rent-a-cops and other ambitious minimum-wagers. Unfortunately, the man in the white coat didn't share Dan's feelings on social Darwinism, so Dan was screwed,

Dan cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled. "All right, I've had enough of this crap! On three, we're coming in! This is your last chancel" He waited for a moment to see if that would end matters, but the hostage taker didn't respond. Dan pulled some cash from his pocket and turned to Single City Stiff. "All right. You go that way," Dan said, pointing east. "I'll go that way." He pointed west before handing the man a couple of twenties. The man nodded agreement. A second later Dan started. "One! Two!"

FWUMP! FWUMP! Dan cringed at the fat sound of two rounds slamming into the other side of his hiding place. "Three!" Dan turned to the man in white. "Go!"

In one swift motion the man stuffed the forty bucks into his pocket and made his move. He was just four feet from the truck when the woman opened fire. The blood red exploded across the man's white coat. He staggered backwards and fell at Dan's side. "Jesus!" Dan hadn't been prepared for this, not outright murder.

The man's eyes and mouth were open wide. He'd been hit three times. His breathing was frantic as his hand groped about his bloody chest. "Oh my God! Oh my God! "

"I don't believe it!" Dan said. "She ... she shot you!"

The man's expression relaxed a bit. He suddenly didn't look like someone who had just taken three in the torso. "Wait a minute . . ." The man probed his wounds, then put his bloody fingers to his mouth and tasted the red. He spit.

Dan knew something was hinky. He reached down and felt the wounds himself, "The hell is this?" He rubbed the blood between his fingers, then sniffed. "She's got a paint gun? "

The man in the white coat sat up, confused as much as anything else. "She said she was armed. She didn't say with what." The man suddenly grabbed Dan by his shirt and pulled him close. "Hey, asshole," he said. "You didn't go. " He was angry. "You said we'd go on three and you didn't go for shit. "

"I did," Dan insisted, "but I, uh, twisted my ankle." He rubbed the joint and winced. "Owl I think I sprained it pretty bad." He touched it tenderly. "Might be broken, I'm not sure."

"Uh huh." Single City Stiff wasn't buying it. "So now what?"

Dan was trying to

Meet the Author

Bill Fitzhugh is the author of seven novels. He still has all of his original organs and plans to keep it that way until the very end, at which point he is willing to let the doctors divvy them up among anyone (with the exception of politicians) who might need them. However, he makes no promises about the quality of his liver. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and all of her organs.

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Cross Dressing 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
bifocalbabe More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It is great. I immediately sent it on to my pal, Sunny, whose late sister was a nun. Another fan! Read this little book and laugh at the twists and turns of alter-identities. God moves in strange ways, and so does Bill Fitzhugh, it seems.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want a laugh, you NEED to read Cross Dressing. Fitzhugh creates such amazing situations, that I wish I had thought of, they're so ingenious. Amazingly funny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has got to be one of the best that I've ever read. There are so many little jokes in there along with the humor that the book is based upon. Along with it comes the harsh reality of the real world, like the life before a nun became a nun and so on. This book will change you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bill Fitzhugh has quickly become one of my favorite authors. He creates such wonderful scenarios for his quirky charactors and finds outragious ways to get them out of their problems. Cross Dressing is a quick, funny read. It's not quite as good as Organ Grinders or Pest Control, but it's still highly recommended. Fitzhugh is weakest when trying to wrap up his novels as the plausability factor goes up in smoke. Up until then you can almost believe the adventure. Anyway, if you like comedic adventures, give Fitzhugh a try.