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I'm reading picaresque books in 2010 and reading authors and subjects I would not otherwise lift off a library or bookstore shelf. Such is Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? by Baxter Black. Before going further, though, this is once again not a picaresque novel. It is another buddy story with lots of miles covered going from one professional rodeo to the next. Link and Cody are likable cowboys and their dogged attempts to stay on the back of a bucking bull for eight seconds are not as predictable as one might expect. Black writes of a camaraderie among the competitors, as they tell each other about the quirks and threats of the animals. Danger lurks only when Texan big businessmen look to win gambling bets by kidnapping Link at the year end competition in Oklahoma City.
Black is notable as the dean of the cowboy poets, who knew? And he has various gimmicks in the development of the story that are outright charming as well as clever. He interrupts the story every now and then to "talk" directly to the reader about what might come next and how he has gone about constructing the tale. I especially liked Pinto Calhoon, the genie/guardian angel who lives in a can of Copenhagen, speaks in rhymed couplets, and who has a prior history of not really helping those to whom he granted wishes, such as the likes of Ted Turner, Mario Puzo, Gary Hart, John DeLorean and John Erlichman. With such a history of failures, Link thinks Pinto is due for a change of luck and will help him win the finals.
So, I guess there are some picaresque elements in here: a true blue traveling buddy, daring escapes, and naive, a goodhearted protagonist on a quest. All in all, a wholesome humorous book about the contemporary West, the kind of book high school English teachers should put on summer reading lists (that is, completely devoid of political correctedness and social liberalism).
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