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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rowdy In Paris.

If Lamb and Dog of the South had a baby, it would be Rowdy in Paris.

The tone of Tim Sandlin's latest novel has the nonchalant, go-where-the-day-takes-you style of Christopher Moore's satirical biography of a teenaged Jesus, but the set-up is pure Portis.

In Dog of the South, the Arkansas-based protagonist takes off to Mexico, looking for the car his ex-wife has taken, and along the way he teams up with a bumbling, ineffectual companion to share his madcap adventures with. In Rowdy In Paris, title character Rowdy, a Wyoming-based almost-was championship bull rider, takes off to Paris, looking for his first and only championship belt buckle two French girls have taken, and along the way he teams up with a bumbling, ineffectual companion to share his madcap adventures with.

Dog of the South's Ray Midge is more grumpy and laconic than Rowdy In Paris' bullriding hero, but perhaps that's because the action is sparked by a slightly implausible menage à trois between Rowdy and the two French girls who absconded with his trophy, which Rowdy had meant to present to his estranged 7-year-old son as a way to begin repairing their relationship.

Knowing only their first names, sweet Odette and sullen Giselle, and their university, the University of Paris, Rowdy impulsively takes off after them, to become a fish out of water at the airport, in Paris, and everywhere he goes that isn't in a bullpen.

Once in Paris, he teams up with Pinto Whiteside, who claims to be an ex-CIA agent now working as a spy for Starbucks to uncover a group of radicals determined to stop the coffee bar franchise from opening any stores in France. Whiteside's mission somehow gets tangled up with Rowdy's mission, and both ends need to be sorted out, all the while battling the culture barrier and, by the way, a delicately blooming romance needs to be handled as well.

Although this seems like a lot of action to be stuffed into 288 pages, Sandlin's concise prose clips away all the extraneous bits, leaving behind a streamlined plot composed of strings of humorous dialog.

Rowdy in Paris is not the masterpiece that Dog of the South is, nor the cult classic Lamb has become, but it's a perfectly enjoyable book that puts the reader in a good mood afterward, and frankly, that's worth quite a bit.

Rowdy In Paris
by Tim Sandlin
January, 2008 by Riverhead Press
Hardcover, 288pp
ISBN: 1594489742

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