A writer in the running

You don’t often see an established novelist running for political office, and Kinky Friedman’s independent run for the Texas governorship does much to illustrate why.

Texas-born Friedman, a noted crime fiction writer and a notorious country music entertainer, threw his signature big black hat into the ring and has been busy turning the the four-way gubernatorial race into a three-ring circus. While no one has yet fled the state or pulled a gun (typical activities for Texas politicians) “the Kinkster” has apparently managed to annoy Republicans, Democrats, Hispanics, and black voters, coming across as more of a libertarian than a liberal. If he represents any political party these days, it would be the “Incorrect” one.

What on earth could he be thinking?

Living in New York in 1980, I crossed paths with Friedman once or twice at the Lone Star Cafe, a loud, flamboyant waterhole for Texans who’d somehow found themselves living in Manhattan. Just north of Greenwich Village, the Lone Star was where folks like Willie Nelson and Delbert McClinton played when they were in town, and where Texas liberals like Jim Hightower staged fundraisers. In those days, the Kinkster and his band The Texas Jewboys were the entertainment.

In the 1990s, I encountered Friedman in his subsequent incarnation as a fabulously inventive mystery writer whose fictitious detective was also…Kinky Friedman. (This review I wrote for January Magazine attempted to explain the complex Friedman/Friedman relationship that pervades the novels.)

Friedman eventually shifted the book series, and his own headquarters, from New York back to Texas, where he’s continued to stir things up. Perhaps a run for governor was a logical next step for a pundit who spoofed the Dixie Chicks’ nude Entertainment Weekly photo spread by appearing nude — in triplicate — on the cover of the Dallas Observer.

While Friedman (the politician) is sagging embarrassingly in the polls as election day nears, it’s quite possible that Friedman (the writer) is going come out of this a big winner: I mean, look at the material he’s got for his next novel.

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