Review

Lunatics

by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel have teamed up to write what may be the funniest, most off-the-wall buddy book in recent history. Well, buddy book might be the wrong term. We usually think of buddies as pals, off on a fun-filled road trip or crime spree, with good times, alcohol and wild women involved. First, let it be established that Philip Horkman and Jeffrey Peckerman are the precise opposite of buddies. They, in fact, flat out hate each other, and under normal circumstances would find them sitting flanked by their respective lawyers at opposite tables in a courtroom instead of sharing a luxury suite on a clothing-optional cruise in the Caribbean. 

"Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel have teamed up to write what may be the funniest, most off-the-wall buddy book in recent history."

Philip is a mild-mannered, tree-hugging Jersey suburbanite pet store owner who referees for his daughter’s soccer team. The girls’ 11-and-under soccer championship is at stake, and when Philip calls Jeffrey’s daughter offside in the last minutes, it sets off a chain of events that will eventually find these two men inexorably linked --- sometimes literally with handcuffs and duct tape --- in a dizzying round-the-world trek to every political hot spot on the planet. It starts with a stolen lemur, an insulin pump, two man-eating bears in the city zoo and a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as they flee for their lives, labeled as international terrorists armed with a bomb. This sets every law enforcement agency --- from the NYPD, the FBI, CIA, al-Qaeda, Cuban rebels, Somali pirates, Hamas, Mossad, the Chinese militia and a deep cover team of U.S. Coast Guard Commandos --- hot on their heels.

Some advance reviews are filled with spoilers, so we encourage you to let the story unfold as the pages turn themselves. The mad, around-the-world chase as these two unlikely heroes flee for their lives is best enjoyed if you have no idea what’s coming next.  

The book was written like a literary game of hot potato as two of America’s maddest comedy writers agreed to write a tandem novel. Barry, who lives in Florida, would write a chapter in the voice of Jeffrey Peckerman, the foul-mouthed forensic plumber and enraged father of the girl found offside in the tournament. He would email it off to the unsuspecting Zweibel, living peaceably in his California home, who would digest whatever insanity Barry threw at him, then have his character, the mild-mannered, well-bred Philip Horkman, react.  What happens with each insane scenario exchange is a total surprise to each author in turn, so it’s only fair that readers experience the hilarious results of these two demented writers’ imaginations in the same fashion. Cold turkey. 

Zweibel, winner of numerous Emmys and Writer’s Guild of America awards, was an early comedy writer for “Saturday Night Live.” He has authored several books and screenplays for “Monk,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and PBS’s “Great Performances.

Barry, a Florida Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami World-Herald, has written more than 30 books, two of which were made into movies, and starred in a TV show about his life. He has long caused his millions of readers to guffaw aloud in airports and hospital waiting rooms. 

I have a tiny spoiler alert, but it barely counts because it’s almost in the first chapter. The low-speed hot pursuit across the George Washington Bridge in Philip’s out-of-gas Prius may be one of the funniest chase scenes ever written. I’m just glad I was in the privacy of my own home instead of a public place where I would have either humiliated myself with yelps of laughter or hurt myself trying to maintain decorum. 

Rumor has it that actor Steve Carrell is slated to play the mild-mannered pet store owner in an upcoming movie version. One more tiny spoiler: I hope they can put this together for release in time for this summer’s political conventions. If ever there was a year where we could use some humor, it is this one. Pick up the book. You’ll see why.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 12, 2012

Lunatics
by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

  • Publication Date: January 10, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399158693
  • ISBN-13: 9780399158698