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The Horse is Dead
Where's Poppa?

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The Horse is Dead
Tandem, London, 1972
(price: 25p; 160 pages)
first published in the US by Random House, 1968

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Where's Poppa?
Tandem, London, 1972
(price: 25p; 160 pages)
first published in the US by Paperback Library, 1970

The blurb on the back:

The Horse Is Dead
You'll curse this book, you'll cry over it; you may even get a bit ill. But you're certain to laugh.
Nemiroff was so hopeless - his parents finally ran away from home. Much later, as a counsellor at Camp Winituck, he devoted himself to inventing fiendishly original tortures for the campers. 'I don't want them to grow up thinking life's just a bed of roses,' he explained.
Nemiroff's sex life wasn't a bed of anything, and that was really the trouble. The only time a woman looked his way was when he was looking the other way at someone else.

Where's Poppa?
Some people have all the luck. Money and jobs and girls. Especially girls.
Gordon Hocheiser had the job, and the money, but whenever he thought he was getting anywhere near a girl, there was Momma.
Momma - sitting in the apartment, waiting for Poppa to come home, and seeing to it that no one but herself laid hands on her son.
Momma was quite a woman.

opening lines:
The alarm clock went off at seven-thirty. Hocheiser swung an arm in the general direction of the night table and tried to turn off a half-drunk glass of Alka-Seltzer.

Well, look, don't take my word for it, here are some comments on these books:

'An extremely irreverent, disrespectful, vulgar, shocking and hysterically funny novel' - Miami Herald
'This has to be one of the funniest books of the year' - Library Journal
'If one were to characterise Klane, one would have to say that he is a Max Shulman spiked heavily with the Marquis de Sade' - Jim Bishop
'The tempo is the best of Salinger ... a tasteless novel ... Read it' - NUR
'I fell down in a fit of jealous rage and laughter, crumpled up, held my sides, pulled myself together and burned my joke file. It is undoubtedly the funniest book I have ever read.' - Phyllis Diller
'A funny, bawdy, nasty book ... I laughed out loud all the way through' - Joseph Heller

Actually, all of that lot are wrong. These books are truly rubbish. Possibly it's the passage of the decades, possibly the gap between my culture and that of Mr Klane, but there is nothing even remotely funny in here. And the supposed 'outrageous tastelessness' struggles to survive in a world dominated by gross-out movie comedies.

Perhaps it's no coincidence though, that Klane was partially responsible for the current wave of bad taste Hollywood humour: he wrote the screenplay for Weekend at Bernie's and wrote and directed the even worse follow-up (hilariously entitled Weekend at Bernie's 2). He also wrote a screenplay Greasier, which was supposed to be the sequel to Grease but never not made (we had the very fine Grease 2 instead), co-wrote with John Hughes the awful National Lampoon's European Vacation and directed the terrible disco film, Thank God It's Friday.

Before any of that lot, Where's Poppa? was filmed in 1970 by Carl Reiner with George Segal and Ruth Gordon (of Harold and Maude fame). I haven't seen it, but it has a reputation for being very good. Which means either that this style of humour works better on the screen than the page, or that everyone's wrong again. Klane wrote the script himself, so I suspect the latter.

Additional comment: Since I put these books on the site, I've received an unexpected number of emails from people about them. All have been from serious fans of the novels, which is understandable (why else write?), but the tone has surprised me - none have criticised my opinion, or taken any notice of it whatsoever, but have instead just been pleased to see them mentioned and asked where copies can be bought. My interpretation is that people have fantastically fond memories of Klane's work, and like to be reminded of the joy they got from it. If I were a publisher, I'd be tempted to get a single volume compilation out there.
Meanwhile, I'd like to apologize for my easy dismissal of these books' worth - they just didn't hack it for me, I'm afraid. But I'm prepared to accept that this is clearly my loss, not that of Mr Klane.


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