THE PRISONER OF VANDAM STREET
The irrepressible, hysterically funny Friedman sounds an uncharacteristic melancholy note in his 15th novel featuring a quasi-fictional version of the former country-western singer himself as an amateur detective. While his earlier books (Greenwich Killing Time , etc.) contained serious insights into human nature, they were mostly notable for Friedman's engaging persona—cynical, humorous, free-associating and often politically incorrect. Here Friedman is hospitalized with malaria, suffering the bumbling efforts of his motley Village Irregulars to nurse him back to health. His delirium and disorientation lead him to doubt his senses when a chance glance out his window shows a woman being physically abused in an adjacent apartment on a floor that later proves to contain no apartments, in an obvious nod to Hitchcock's Rear Window . Fortunately, one of his many friends, a private investigator, gives him the benefit of the doubt and looks into the case. Still, Friedman must play a passive role, and feels even more out of touch when his PI friend does his preliminary digging on the Internet. While the punchy, acerbic writing will be familiar and pleasurable to Friedman fans, this remains an atypical effort that hopefully will be followed by a return to a less downbeat plot. Agent, David Vigliano. (Mar. 8)
Forecast: The publicity surrounding Friedman's tongue-in-cheek campaign for the Texas governorship, plus praise for his prose (Friedman also writes a column for Texas Monthly magazine) from George W. Bush, will give a lift during this election season.