<B>Sandlin's comic genius</B> OK, so the madcap plot is silly enough for a Hollywood comedy, something like a cross between <I>Weekend at Bernie's</I> and <I>Wag the Dog</I>. You've got your inconveniently dead body, your pretty girl, your two-bit hoods, your evil politicians. And, of course, your hapless hero, a recently dumped and fired journalist hoping to get the girl, ditch the body, appease the cops, avoid the crooks, sell the story and win a Pulitzer. But trying to describe a Tim Sandlin novel in terms of plot is not only pointless, it's practically impossible. Sandlin inhabits a bizarre land of comic genius somewhere between the manic glee of Tom Robbins and the sharply funny cynicism of Carl Hiaasen. In <B>Honey Don't</B>, he aims his stun-gun at institutions ranging from the government to the Mafia to . . . Texas. The secret to the novel's success is Sandlin's knack for blending his wacky humor with an obvious affection for even the most minor characters from a schizophrenic black poet ruined by critic Jonathan Yardley to the president's reptilian chief of staff.

The title character, Honey, is one of countless little blonde girls whose daddies give them cute "food" names, thereby ensuring they'll never be taken seriously. But Honey has a lot more going on upstairs than people realize. When her high-strung, dim-bulb mobster boyfriend, Jimmy, comes home and catches her with a naked man, and the naked man bangs his head on a plastic flamingo and dies while trying to escape Jimmy's wrath and then, oops, the naked dead man turns out to be the president of the United States Honey maintains her perky composure. She and Jimmy drag their awkward problem to Honey's sweet ex-boyfriend, Farlow Stubbs, a gay football player who's made a second career out of rescuing Honey from various wrong men. They hide the body in Farlow's freezer, but it's soon discovered by RC Nash, the aforementioned reporter. They lock Nash in the sauna with a copy of <I>Out</I> magazine. Then things start to get really wild. Forget the details; just know that, like Honey, Tim Sandlin's readers end up getting a sweet deal. <I>Becky Ohlsen is a freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon.</I>

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