College kid in a Santa suit hitchhikes home for Christmas, meets colorful characters, cops give chase. Southern California has its charms, but Casey Rickert is determined to get back to Kansas City even if it means stashing his surfboard and not handing in the Lit paper his long-suffering girlfriend has refused to write for him. He shows up at a backroom poker game in a sleazy bar, hoping to score some fast cash for the trip, but he’s broke within two hours. A cartoon Mexican with a knife and a gold tooth relieves him of his plane ticket and gives him the bum’s rush. Later, chased by a clerk for shoplifting, he boosts a Santa suit from a mannequin in a town display and heads on down the road. He’s picked up by assorted semi-crazy California types, spends a night in the arms of a lady who owns an avocado ranch, then scrams when the jealous husband with his dog Killer make an unexpected appearance. And so it goes. The road trip high-jinks are interwoven with fond memories of Casey’s dead brother Davy and Davy’s girlfriend Fred or Ricky, variously (short for Frederica) and their little son and what good times they all had in Kansas City, where life is a lot more real. Getting as far as Las Vegas, courtesy of a crazy guy in a Corvette, Casey is waylaid by a late-night radio and TV team planning a honk-if-you-love-Santa-thon for desert denizens—ramblers, gamblers, etc. He eludes them all and is borne aloft by an Indian in a stolen plane that crashes in a snowdrift not far from his Kansas City home, where he is reunited with his family—and the ghost of his dead brother.
A first novel from screenwriter Allin (Zarafa, 1998) that’s more predictable than picaresque.