cover image Midnight Examiner

Midnight Examiner

William Kotzwinkle. Marlowe & Company, $17.95 (227pp) ISBN 978-0-395-49859-0

In this frenetic, only sporadically funny sendup of the scandal magazine trade, the author of Fata Morgana and the popular novelization of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial , mistakes clutter for cleverness. Attached to a threadbare plot about the editors of a fifth-rate scandal sheet trying to save a friend from the clutches of a New York Mafia don named Tony Baloney are more madcap characters than one would want to encounter in 10 novels: wisecracking cabbies, a bubble-headed porn queen, an epileptic mad artist, and an exhausting assortment of soothsayers, goons and deranged editors. All have colorful names (Hip O'Hopp, Mitzi Mouse, Hattie Flyer) to match their personal oddities. Unfortunately, Kotzwinkle puts them through a screwball plot that's more strenuous than exhilarating. After a promising start which captures the desperate humor of people trapped in jobs that embarrass them, the novel gives way to a dogged procession of fistfights and chases, all narrated by a hack journalist in an I've-seen-it-all-and-then-some tone that runs out of comic steam long before the story ends. (Apr.)