Cover image for Frisco pigeon mambo
Frisco pigeon mambo
Payne, C. D. (C. Douglas), 1949-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Sebastopol, Calif. : AIVIA Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
186 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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"Jonathan Livingston Seagull as imagined by the Marx brothers". That's one take on Frisco Pigeon Mambo, an uproarious new comic novel by C.D. Payne, author of the cult classic Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp.

When a flock of alcohol- and tobacco-addicted lab pigeons are liberated in San Francisco, our feathered heroes turn the whole city topsy-turvy. They dance into bars, stick up liquor stores, spy on socialites, swipe a van full of cats, and even dodge a murder rap.

Meet the leader who's convinced he's human because "it would be too absurd to name a pigeon Robin". Will Robin and his pals find their way back to Berkeley? Will they survive the next 15 minutes without a cigarette?

Along the way, these swashbuckling outlaws team up with Freud-quoting parakeet on the lam from a mental health clinic, a pigeon-devouring falcon with a sudden interest in religion, a halibut-wielding sea gull with a knack for shoplifting, and more. Soon they have a price on their heads, cops on their trail, beer on their breath, and amour on their minds.

Not since Hitchcock unleashed "The Birds" has California witnessed such mischief from the skies. But prepare for a surprise or two as the notorious "Killer Pigeons" undergo a dramatic transformation.

Described by the author as "America's great pigeon novel", Frisco Pigeon Mambo is now in development as a Twentieth-Century Fox animated film, to be produced by the Farrelly brothers ("Something About Mary", "Me, Myself & Irene"). Foreign rights to the novel have been sold so far to Germany (Droemer) and the Czech Republic (Jota).

Frisco is being published simultaneously with Revolting Youth: The Further Journals of Nick Twisp. Thislong-awaited sequel to Payne's first novel continues the comic misadventures of the "world's most dangerous teen diarist".

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

While novelists have written countless stories about adolescent angst and midlife malaise, few have touched on the vagaries of species identity crisis. But that is the comic premise of Payne's (Youth in Revolt) new novel, which follows the adventures of a group of lab test pigeons (Group C). These pigeons smoke, drink and listen to Maryanne, the gorgeous lab assistant, read to them from The Maltese Falcon. One day, Robin, the narrator, and his cagemates, Petey and Honky, are unwillingly "liberated" by an animal rights group. Set down in San Francisco and under the delusion that they are human, they aren't prepared for cars and cats. At first they resort to dancing the mambo in a nightclub to cadge drinks. Then they begin to meet and gather information from other birds. They learn from an escaped parakeet, Bud Gerigar, that they can fly. The trio begin cigarette snatching from pedestrians and raiding liquor stores. As hysteria about "killer pigeons" grips the city, Robin's group stumbles upon other freed groups from the lab, notably the girls of Test Group A. Robin also bamboozles a real falcon, Norris, into helping them in their quest to get back to the lab. While Robin scrambles frantically to return to captivity, the reader sees what he can't: Darla, a Group A female, is crazy about him. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Robin, a lab pigeon who believes that he and his cohorts are human, narrates this rollicking tale about experimental subjects who are kept sated with tobacco and sherry. When they are kidnapped by animal-rights activists and let loose on the streets of San Francisco, he manages to save most of his feathered friends when birds of prey, politicians, and police threaten untimely destruction. Robin, who has long pined for their fulsome and human caretaker at the lab, invests his gang in a madcap search for Sam Spade. Instead, they find canaries, falcons, egocentric socialites, a semi-orphaned seagull, occasional gluts of alcoholic beverages, and, of course, endless bouts of trouble. San Francisco is invoked in all its contemporary eccentricities, from street performers whom Robin and his avian buddies misinterpret to a mayor who demonstrates great concern with his own sartorial splendor. Cigarette brand names have been altered to ludicrous riffs (e.g., "Virginia Gaunts") and the birds have to deal with an array of social problems of their own: widowhood, transgender identity, physical disability, religious disillusionment, and more. The author of Youth in Revolt (Doubleday, 1996) has written more compactly here and the story will hold the attention of any teenaged guy with dreams of being turned loose in the big city. This is crazy fun, not precisely clean, but certainly within the bounds of tasteful absurdity.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.