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THE STENCH OF HONOLULU by Jack Handey Kirkus Star


A Tropical Adventure

by Jack Handey

Pub Date: July 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-455-52238-5
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Deep Thoughts creator Handey (What I’d Say to the Martians, 2008, etc.) pens his first novel, an absurd adventure set in Hawaii.

The unreliable narrator is Slurps (he picked the nickname). He’s clueless, inappropriate, delusional, dim: an all-around misguided, comedic nightmare. Among his life goals: to someday throw a hand grenade. “Maybe I’ll get to do that in Heaven,” he muses. As the book opens, Slurps and his friend Don book a vacation to Hawaii (a “mysterious place” Slurps has never heard of) to get away from it all—in Don’s case, from an ex-wife; in Slurps’ case, from violent men to whom he owes money. After receiving a Hawaiian “treasure map” from their travel agent showing the way to a valuable relic called the Golden Monkey, the two decide to steal the object. Before they depart for the islands, Slurps visits Uncle Lou, an ailing treasure hunter who, upon learning of Slurps’ plan to steal the Golden Monkey, drugs Slurps and then implants a tracking device in his tooth. “The trouble with going to Uncle Lou’s was he was always drugging you,” Slurps notes. Indeed. The Hawaii of the book is not a place any tourist would recognize. Honolulu is a “dirty, coastal backwater” stinking of fish heads and featuring in its town square “a bronze statue of the discoverer of Hawaii, Sir Edmund Honolulu III,” not to mention lots of bums and prostitutes. This Hawaii has its own currency, the paleeka, and the bars serve bowls of dried geckos in lieu of beer nuts. The beaches showcase rusty cars that have washed ashore. Slurps' observations are epic throughout: "A scary-looking transvestite put flower necklaces around our necks and said, 'Aloha.' Someone told me later that aloha is a curse word." Things take a turn for the much worse when Slurps acquires a hula-girl souvenir that in fact turns out to be cursed. (See Bobby Brady in the 1972 Brady Bunch Hawaii episodes.) Disasters ensue. The journey into the jungle in search of the Golden Monkey finds Slurps and Don battling pirates, getting hit with blow darts and meeting a native woman that Slurps hits on using his favorite pickup line, "what's your religion?" The doomed expedition culminates in a riot, complete with a pitchfork-wielding mob, inside a national park. It's Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness meets the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Ridiculous fun through and through. You have to love a guy who goes out looking for hiking supplies and comes back with bottles of scotch and packs of cigarettes. A true outdoorsman, he.

The best comedic novel in years. Handey is a master. Fans will be quoting lines from this book for a long time. If you like the work of George Saunders, this one's for you.