When Blatty wrote Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! in 1967, Kirkus called it a ""wildly whimsical tour de farce."" The author, however, considers this early work ""surely no more than the notes for a novel,"" and The Ninth Configuration is a reworked, slightly updated version. As before, a military psychiatrist, Col. Hudson Kane, comes to take charge of a special asylum filled with military officers, including reluctant astronaut Billy Cutshaw, who have had sudden mental whack-outs (or are they faking?). Extended madcap dialogues and madhouse hijinks ensue, in the who's-really-crazy-here mode that was fresh ten years ago but seems dry and stale as a cuckoo's nest now. And, inevitably, as one of the inmates foreshadows, ""Kane is Gregory Peck in Spellbound! . . . He comes to take charge of a nuthouse and it turns out the guy's really crazy himself!"" Most of the novel is still talk, as Kane analyzes Cutshaw and vice versa, but the talk is more heavyhandedly thematic now (Vietnam guilt; loss-of-faith, etc.). And there's a melodramatic showdown with a cycle gang followed by Kane's sacrifice (""He gave up his life"") of his guilt-ridden soul (a contrived nod to Blatty's Exorcist fans) for Cutshaw's sanity. An idea whose time came and went, its original lighthearted bite now slickly bludgeoned into pop-pretentiousness.