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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (Kinky Friedman Series #15)

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Overview

It's a case of missing kid and missing kitty when Kinky Friedman, private dick extraordinaire and animal lover nonpareil, attempts to find a young, autistic New York boy and a three-legged Texas cat named Lucky, both of whom have disappeared.

Something is rotten in both the states of New York and Texas, and Kinky takes it upon himself to locate not one, but two of God's creatures who have gone astray. Dylan Weinberg is an eleven-year-old boy with a rare form of autism -- a ...

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Overview

It's a case of missing kid and missing kitty when Kinky Friedman, private dick extraordinaire and animal lover nonpareil, attempts to find a young, autistic New York boy and a three-legged Texas cat named Lucky, both of whom have disappeared.

Something is rotten in both the states of New York and Texas, and Kinky takes it upon himself to locate not one, but two of God's creatures who have gone astray. Dylan Weinberg is an eleven-year-old boy with a rare form of autism -- a pint-sized stock-market wizard who can only utter one word, "Shnay." He's on a multitude of medications, and one night his father wakes up to find Dylan perched over his bed like some preteen zombie, clutching a pair of scissors and cutting up the sheets. Since that evening, two weeks ago, Dylan has been missing, and the cops have no leads -- and apparently not much interest. That's why, in an absolute last-resort maneuver, the family has called in Kinky to the rescue.

And speaking of rescue, Kinky's second missing person -- make that missing pussy -- case comes courtesy of his Cousin Nancy (no relationship), who, along with Kinky, helped found the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Utopia, Texas. Lucky, the three-legged cat -- and unofficial mascot of the ranch -- is gone, the victim of an apparent kittynapping. Cousin Nancy is convinced the feline is either in the hands of some nasty, contentious neighbors or is being sacrificed by a satanic cult. No matter what, she wants Kinky to find Lucky before he becomes coyote chow.

It's an uneven dilemma for Kinky -- stay in town and concentrate on finding a sick, missing child (and concentrate, too, on Julia, said child's beautiful, long-legged sister), or hotfoot off to Texas, to help calm down the frantic Cousin Nancy who's this close to proclaiming Lucky's been abducted by aliens. Kinky puts his trust in his faithful companion, Village Irregular Steve Rambam, to help find the little boy while Kinky hightails it to Utopia, Texas, where Nancy provides him with two witnesses to the alleged crime -- a dim-sighted eighty-year-old lady named Josephine and a frisky canine named Mr. Magoo.

Back in New York, Rambam has no clue where Dylan might be, but he is becoming increasingly sure that Julia is the Jewish answer to his romantic prayers. Kinky warns him to put the wedding plans on hold and track down Hattie Mamajello, Dylan's former nanny, but it's too little too late when Hattie is pushed off a subway platform and killed. The confusion generated by these two disparate cases is enough to drive a dick to drink -- which Kinky is happy to do -- but he's still got a missing kid and a missing kitty on his cigar-stained hands to locate before (a) Rambam whisks Julia off to Vegas for a quickie wedding and (b) Cousin Nancy calls in the FBI, the CIA, and the Mossad to find her Lucky.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, aided and abetted by a few four-legged friends, the mystery of the purloined kitty continues to grow. Then it's back to the wilds of midtown Manhattan and the even wilder wilds of Sche-nectady, New York, where, in their search for the missing boy, Kinky and his two-legged cohort find themselves at an orphanage Dickens would be proud of.

True to Kinky's form, and informed with truth, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch is a wild and woolly (and furry) ride from a true original, and entertainment at its most outrageous.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this stellar Kinky Friedman outing, two great mysteries confront the Kinkster. First, he must solve the mystery of Dylan Weinberg's disappearance. Has the 11-year-old autistic stock market wizard just vanished, or is he the victim of a fiendish plot? And speaking of fiendish plots, who's responsible for the cat-napping of that adorable little three-legged feline named Lucky? Once again, Kinky has difficulty sorting out the leads and keeping his priorities straight.
From the Publisher
The News-Press (Fort Myers, FL) A double-dose of Texas-sized fun....Meanwhile Back At The Ranch is part city, part country, and all Kinky.

The New York Times Book Review A surefire cure for the blues....Brimming with acerbic one-liners, down-home philosophizing and twisted riffs that pirouette from highbrow to trashy in one cigar-stoked breath.

Publishers Weekly
Consistently irreverent, politically incorrect and more than a little outrageous, the Kinkster's 15th effort (after 2001's Steppin' on a Rainbow), while it may please his fans, is unlikely to win any new ones, as it's just a bit thin in the telling. Reading a Friedman novel is like listening to a hip monologue where some of the jokes work, some don't. Reading a Friedman novel is like being thrust into a hellzapoppin' world where reality is the only uncertainty. The ultimate effect, however, is amiable. The author's compassion for the underdog and love of animals are clear. Kinky has three cases to handle and he has catalogued them with the names of the Three Stooges. "Larry" involves a missing autistic boy, 11-year-old Dylan Weinberg, who speaks only one word, "Schnay," which is the clue to the mystery that surrounds him. "Moe" concerns a serial killer, whom Kinky and his buddy, Rambam, stake out. And finally there's "Curly," which focuses on the disappearance of a three-legged cat named Lucky. Lucky is of great sentimental value to Kinky's cousin Nancy, who helps run the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch (a real place), where unwanted animals are allowed to live out their lives. One of the cases comes to nothing, while another produces an unexpected corpse. It takes Friedman half the book to build a momentum, but once begun it moves well to a credible conclusion. The cat, incidentally, says nothing. 9-city author tour. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Sept. 12) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kinky has his hands full he must track down an autistic child and his wayward cat, Lucky. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After years of working no harder than his cat, Kinky Friedman is juggling three cases his private-eye buddy Steve Rambam has code-named Moe, Larry, and Curly. Moe, a search for a serial killer living in a quiet Long Island neighborhood, fizzles early on, and the mysterious Curly never gets off the ground. But Larry, the quest for the missing Dylan Weinberg, actually puts Kinky's brain cells to work. Where would an 11-year-old autistic savant with a working vocabulary of exactly one word ("shnay") have gone? If he was kidnapped, why hasn't there been a ransom demand? How can a lone private eye find him when New York's finest haven't a clue weeks after the fact? And how soon can the Kinkster quit condoling with Dylan's luscious half-sister Julia and start putting the moves on her? Good questions, all of them, but they can't hold a candle to the disappearance of a three-legged cat named Lucky from the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, that slice of Texas heaven Kinky founded with pleading Nancy Parker. As Rambam points out, it should be easy to decide which is more important, a child missing in New York or a cat missing in Texas, but peripatetic Kinky manages to work both cases, managing enough detection to offer his peerless hallmark persiflage some serious competition. For the rest, it's the same reliable formula as Kinky's first 14 (Steppin' on a Rainbow, 2001, etc.): rude banter, honest laughs, a Zen-like approach to crime and punishment, and not a trace of Curly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416578024
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/21/2007
  • Series: Kinky Friedman Series , #15
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,411,273
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kinky  Friedman

Kinky Friedman lives in a little green trailer somewhere in the hills of Texas. He has five dogs, one armadillo, and one Smith-Corona typewriter. By the time you are reading this, Mr. Friedman may either be celebrating becoming the next governor of Texas or he may have retired in a petulant snit.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Like a jaded, Jewish juggler in the cheap sideshow of life, one cold, gray afternoon I suddenly found myself with five balls in the air. Unfortunately, two of them were my own. Ah, but the other three! That's where the story really began. For the first time since God gave Gatorade to the Israelites, I had three potentially big cases all going for me at once. Many aspects of this investigative trinity were so daunting that I'd taken to referring to each case with a code name. Rambam, my half-Jewish, half-law-abiding P.I. pal, had provided the three investigations with their cryptic monikers. I was not wild about the three names he'd chosen, but at least they provided a handy way to converse clandestinely about these matters, thereby keeping the other Village Irregulars in total innocence.

"I'm just not sure," I said to the cat, "that Moe, Larry, and Curly are quite the correct nomenclature for matters of this import."

The cat, of course, said nothing. She contented herself with sitting precisely in the middle of the desk and looking at me with pity in her eyes. This did not surprise me. Cats, like many people, have almost no sense of humor. The last thing on the planet liable to entertain a cat would be the Three Stooges.

All I knew about the cases at this point was as follows: As regards to Moe, I was four steps behind a possible serial killer. As far as Larry went, I was tantalizingly close to locating a missing autistic child who only said the word "shnay." As far as Curly was concerned, I can say nothing at all except that the investigation was so big it made the Giant Rat of Sumatra look like Mickey Mouse.

For a few furious hours, I manned the phones, talking tersely to Rambam, New York Police Detective Sergeant Mort Cooperman, Detective Sergeant Buddy Fox, and various other concerned parties whose identities I feel morally obligated to protect at this time. I maintain two red telephones on my desk, both attached to the same line and both placed precisely equidistant from the cat. If I'd had a million red telephones, I felt, I'd still not be on top of things. Finally, I took a break. I lit my third Cuban cigar of the day and walked over to the window to watch the garbage trucks. It's a little funny and a little sad to see the things people throw away in their lives. Some of them won't even fit into a garbage truck.

The only sound within the loft emanated from my commercial-sized espresso machine, which appeared to be dangerously close to liftoff. The hissing, steaming, gurgling tones sounded very much like "Blowin' in the Wind" being performed by a drowning kazoo player. I myself, worn to a frazzle from attempting to conduct three investigations at once, felt like a man dying of syphilis at the turn of the century. The cat, as one might expect, was invariably in a mood that ran counter to my own. She practically frolicked along the windowsill in unbridled, John Denver-like joy.

"It's almost good to be alive," I said, paraphrasing my father.

The cat did not respond. She did not believe in paraphrasing anybody. If a cat can't quote things precisely, the cat nearly always prefers to remain silent. If people pursued this same feline wisdom there'd be a lot fewer misunderstandings, a lot fewer wars, and a lot fewer people ripping off Oscar Wilde at cocktail parties.

I drew a hot, bitter espresso from the giant, gleaming dildo that took up about a third of my little kitchen and wandered back over to the window and stood with the cat, watching some more garbage trucks. There were worldfuls of garbage trucks and worldfuls of cats and worldfuls of people like me wondering where the hell everybody went. As far as a financial pleasure for the Kinkster went, my previous three cases might've just as well ridden out on one of the garbage trucks. I'd managed to cajole the Village Irregulars into infiltrating Winnie Katz's lesbian domain in the loft above and wound up wearing a red wig. I'd tackled a cell of international terrorists and was just happy to finally have the severed finger removed from the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. I'd also attempted to locate McGovern, who'd disappeared off the coast of Hawaii while researching recipes for his cookbook, Eat, Drink, and Be Kinky. He was eventually found with a little help from one of Stephanie DuPont's four-legged friends, an intrepid young Maltese named Baby Savannah.

Even though there'd been no payoff and the cases all had mixed results, I nonetheless took a small measure of pride in the seminal role I'd performed in my recent work. Had I not been successful, I thought, the world might've been overrun with lesbians and terrorists and McGovern might've been still wandering around lost in a fog somewhere. There are those, of course, who might point out that that's a fairly accurate description of how things are these days anyway.

My past triumphs and defeats, however, were all smoke now, I thought, as I glanced at my dusty reflection in the windowpane. The puppethead, which currently resided atop the mantel of the fireplace, had watched it all go down and now seemed to be smiling at me with a little wooden smile on its face. It was, I noticed, almost precisely the same little wooden smile I was currently wearing myself. Like father, like son. It pays to have a sense of humor in this life. If you don't, Allah knows what will happen.

I was puffing rather pridefully on my cigar, thinking of how challenging and potentially profitable my three new cases might be, when the phones rang. It could well be a call regarding Moe, Larry, or Curly which would, no doubt, send me into another fugue of feverish activity. I rapidly finished feeding the cat a can of Flaked Tuna with Egg Bits in Sauce, goose-stepped over to the desk, and picked up the blower on the left.

"Start talkin'," I said.

"Kinky!" said a highly excited, out-of-breath-sounding female voice. "It's Cousin Nancy from Utopia!"

I puffed stoically on the cigar, settling back in my chair for what could be a long winter. I blew a patient plume of blue smoke upward toward Winnie Katz's lesbian dance class.

"Come in, Berlin," I said.

Copyright © 2002 by Kinky Friedman

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter Five

"It's quite understandable," I remarked to the cat the following morning, "for Rambam to be in a snit about Moe. The stakeout was obviously premature ejaculation on my part. How was I to know there was a Brownie troop in there having a slumber party?"

The cat did not reply. She just continued to perch on the kitchen counter like an evil buzzard striving to manufacture a measure of mortification. I didn't let it get me down.

"Rambam does seem to evince a great fascination for the case known as Larry," I rambled on as I lit my first cigar of the morning with a kitchen match.

The cat gazed intently at the flame. For a moment two tiny Statue of Liberty torches burned brightly in her eyes. Then, quick as freedom, they were gone.

"Blessed is the match that kindles the flame," I said, quoting teenage freedom-fighter Hannah Senesch, who was killed by the Nazis just before Hungary was liberated by the Russians, only to be imprisoned again under the iron fist of communism. Quick as freedom.

"I don't know if Rambam is interested in Larry because it's a missing persons case, or because the autistic child only says the word 'shnay,' or because Rambam thinks I'm an autistic child. Of course, I haven't told him anything about Curly. I haven't told anybody anything about Curly."

The cat had wandered off during the early portion of my monologue and now she was busily pursuing a rather large cockroach into the rain room.

"Careful," I shouted. "It could be Franz Kafka."

The cat, of course, did not respond. The blower, however, began ringing almost on cue. I hoisted the blower on the left. The voice on the line was unpleasantly familiar, like a child molester you used to know.

"Hi, Tex," said the voice. "How's the king of crime solvers?"

It was Detective Sergeant Buddy Fox, and if I didn't know better he sounded almost solicitous.

"Busy," I said. "How's my second-favorite public servant?"

"Second favorite?" said Fox. "Who's your first?"

"Everybody else," I said.

He laughed a condescending cop laugh that went on long enough to tell me he wanted something. I hoped I had it in stock. The cupboard was pretty bare these days.

"How can I help you, Officer?" I said.

"Call me Buddy, Tex," he said. "We've been on the same side of the police barricades enough times by now."

"Okay, Buddy. How can I help you?"

"I understand you're working the Weinberg Case? Missing autistic kid?"

"Yes, uh, Buddy. That's right. Mrs. Weinberg called me three days ago. I agreed to see if I could help."

"Yeah, well, Tex, there is a way you could help. You see, we've got over two thousand man-hours into this case. The only useful thing you could do right now is to help us with your friend McGovern."

"McGovern? He already did a big piece on the disappearance of the kid two weeks ago. Why don't you contact him yourself?"

"Because we think you could help get him to do another big piece. Maybe position a picture of the kid on the front page."

"McGovern's no pushover," I said, relighting the cigar. "But I'll see what I can do."

"That's the spirit, Tex."

When I cradled the blower, I did not call McGovern. There'd been big publicity in the papers when the kid first disappeared. Now, two weeks later, if the cops still needed more big publicity it was obvious they were urinating up a rope. Instead of calling McGovern, I cajoled a strong double espresso out of the machine, puffed purposefully on my cigar, and called the Oracle of Brooklyn, Steve Rambam.

"Of course they haven't got shit," he said, when I informed him of good ol' Buddy's overture. "That's why they called you."

"You really know how to make a fellow feel important."

"Look. Fox said they'd put two thousand man-hours into it. That means they've dusted for fingerprints, followed all leads, talked to all witnesses, canvassed the neighborhood, knocked on every door. You've got to concentrate on what they haven't done."

"If I knew what it was, I'd concentrate on it."

"Okay, look. This is very likely a kidnapping. At least you'd better hope it is, because the kid can't feed himself, he can't take care of himself, he probably can't even say his own name. All he can say is 'shnay.' So if he wasn't kidnapped he's probably dead."

"So what do I do?"

"So you interview the family. You get the family to tell you something they might've been too embarrassed to tell the cops. Maybe something they just forgot to mention. Use the personal touch. People say things all the time to perfect strangers that they'd never tell the authorities. Just remember, in my experience with missing kids there's about a fifty percent chance that your clients -- the family -- are somehow involved in the disappearance of the victim."

"Sounds like a plan," I said doubtfully. "I'll put Larry on the front burner and let Moe and Curly circle the bowl for a while."

"Speaking of Moe, Larry, and Curly, they had a fourth brother, you know, who joined the Three Stooges later, but they still called themselves the Three Stooges."

"Tell it to the History Channel."

"His name was Shemp."

"I don't care if his name was Wayne Newton," I said. "These are stupid names for investigations and I think I'm going to drop them -- "

"Big mistake," said Rambam. "They were really heavy guys. Most people today don't know this, but all four of them were Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn. Their real name was the Fine Brothers and they were all general building contractors who specialized in single-family homes."

"Tell it to Donald Trump."

"In the forties, they were as big as the Marx Brothers, also four Jewish guys from New York. It's still a very prestigious thing in Brooklyn to live in a Three Stooges-built home."

"There are places in New York where it's no doubt considered prestigious to live in a refrigerator carton. This information, while providing some fascinating spiritual trivia, is not terribly pertinent to the matter at hand -- "

"I'm telling you why you should keep the names!"

"And I'm telling you that I don't understand why -- if it was really a kidnapping -- there hasn't been a ransom note."

"Look, it's been two weeks. Maybe somebody wanted a kid and went out and took one. When they find out he only says the word 'shnay,' maybe they keep him, maybe they dump him. How the hell do I know?"

"But do you think it's possible that a ransom note might still arrive?"

"By what?" said Rambam. "Pony Express?"

Copyright © 2002 by Kinky Friedman

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Kinky' s back

    For private sleuth Kinky Friedman working on more than one case at a time is just too much work. Yet now he is stuck with two distinct investigations in different parts of the country. The first case involves the search for a missing eleven-year-old autistic child, Dylan Weinberg, whose entire vocabulary consists of one expression "shnay". The other case focuses on a vanished cat in Texas. <P>For Kinky, the case he prefers to work on is the missing boy, not because he is altruistic, but because Dylan¿s sister Julia is a sexy siren. However, he finds himself at Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Texas seeking the lost Lucky whose owner Cousin Nancy Parker plans to call in the Feds of several nations if Kinky does not find her purloined feline soon. However, Kinky decides to work both cases with the hope his consoling Julia turns more into her consoling him. <P>The latest Kinky Friedman novel can be summed up in one word (not shnay, but kinky). The hero remains as irreverent and wild as ever and his support cast, including the irregulars as well as his current clients, enables Kinky to be wackier than ever. Fans of the series will fully relish his dividing time between Manhattan, the Texas ranch, and even Schenectady, as he takes no prisoners in solving his cases. <P>Harriet Klausner

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