Cover image for Fender benders
Fender benders
Fitzhugh, Bill.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2001]

Physical Description:
viii, 326 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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In his first three novels, Bill Fitzhugh created new strains of homicidal insects, sliced open the illegal transplant business, and sinfully skewered the Church and Madison Avenue with the same spear. Now he turns his attention to the hitmaking machinery of Music City, U.S.A.Depending on your point of view, Fender Benders is either a skewed look at the country music industry or a clear-eyed view of a damn screwy business. It's a Grand Old Opera complete with murder, treachery, greed, drugs, twangy music, a love triangle, and the best fried swimps you'll ever put in your mouth.First off, some folks down South have taken to dropping like flies. One minute they have a headache, the next they have a date at the funeral home. Seems some lunatic is tampering with boxes of headache powder, lacing them with sodium fluoroacetate. It's a nasty death, but at least it's quick, and it makes you forget you had a headache.Second off, Eddie Long wants to move to Nashville and become a country music star, but right now he's stuck in Hinchcliff, Mississippi. Eddie's big break comes with a contract to tour the Mississippi casino circuit. While he's on the road, his wife dies, the victim of an apparent serial killer. The emotional turmoil of his wife's death causes Eddie to write the best song of his life. He takes it to Nashville, hooks up with a hoary management company, and launches his career.Meanwhile, Jimmy Rogers is a freelance writer covering the Mississippi m

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fitzhugh (Cross Dressing; Pest Control) moves into Clyde Edgerton and Barry Hannah territory and acquits himself with aplomb in this witty romp through the country music industry. Aspiring country music star Eddie Long has served a hard apprenticeship in honky-tonks across the South, and just as he gets a promising gig in a Mississippi casino, his young wife dies under mysterious circumstances. The cause is actually food poisoning, but before the police get there her lover tries to make it look like a suicide, while her father tries to pass it off as murder. In his grief, Eddie writes a magnificent country song, "It Wasn't Supposed to End That Way," that tops the charts and makes him a superstar. He involuntarily becomes embroiled in the seamy side of the music business, associating with rapacious agents, producers, DJs and a carnivorous groupie, Megan, who avariciously eyes Eddie's millions while plying him with drugs. A would-be biographer named Jimmy Rogers, who is also the jealous, discarded boyfriend of the greedy groupie, takes the advice of an unscrupulous literary agent and writes an unauthorized biography, which hints that Eddie had something to do with his wife's death and might even be a serial killer. The action and punch lines come at a furious pace, and Fitzhugh tosses in references to Nashville and Bob Roberts, two of the best country music movies. All in all, this is sharp, sassy, read-in-one-sitting, laugh-out-loud literature. (Dec. 1) Forecast: Movie rights for Pest Control and Cross Dressing have been sold to Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures respectively. If a movie ever results, Fitzhugh's stock will instantly rise, but even if it doesn't, he should collect a few more readers with each hilarious outing. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana Fred Babineaux was halfway between Morgan City and Houma when he decided he had a brain tumor. He couldn't think of anything else to explain the king-hell of a headache swelling inside his skull. It was a tumor, he was sure of it, a tumor the size of a pink Texas grapefruit. Fred was driving south on a narrow stretch of highway that traced the spine of a levee separating two cane fields thirty feet below on either side of the road. He was heading for Terrebonne Bay to meet with a man who wanted to buy a boat from the manufacturer Fred represented. The sale would mean a fat commission, but at the moment Fred would have forfeited that plus two months salary to make the headache disappear. He picked up the can of Dandy's Cream Soda that was sweating in the cup holder. He held it to his head for a moment hoping the cold would soothe the pain. When that failed, Fred thought maybe the problem was dehydration or low blood sugar, so he gulped half the can. The fields below on both sides of the levee were lush with a young crop of sugarcane flourishing in the promising Louisiana heat. It was hot for late April and humid. A couple of snowy egrets stalked the edge of the cane fields stabbing orange beaks at their lunch. Here and there the familiar smear of armadillo slicked the road. Fred identified with one whose head had been reduced to the consistency of a thick roux. His dehydration and low blood sugar theories disproved, Fred took his hands off the wheel and steered with his knee so be could massage his throbbing temples. The radio was tuned to Kickin' 98, "Classic Country for South Louisiana, playing a mix of the old and the new, because a song ain't gotta be old to be a classic." They were playing a ballad at the moment, soothing close harmonies Fred hoped might ease his pain. By the end of the song, however, Fred knew he required pharmaceuticals. He leaned over for the glove compartment when, suddenly, he heard what sounded like an airplane landing on the roof of his car. Startled by the abrupt roar of the thundering engine, Fred jerked his bands back to the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding a long plunge off the road. "Sonofabitch!" Adrenaline poured into his system. His heart rate soared, turning his already bad headache into severe unilateral periorbital pain. Fred looked out the window and saw the crop duster raining Gramoxone onto the sweet young cane. Maybe that's what caused my tumor, he thought. He'd been up and down these roads so many times over the years there was no telling how many gallons of herbicides and pesticides he'd absorbed. That had to be it. You could strap Fred Babineaux to the bottom of one of those noisy old biplanes, poke a few holes in him, and spray a field with whatever came out. Kill anything it hit. Fred looked to make sure the plane wasn't coming again, then leaned over and popped open the glove compartment. He grabbed the familiar yellow-and-red box of Dr. Porter's Headache Powder, an aspirin product sold only in the deepest parts of the South. He'd bought this particular box at an EZ Mart in Shreveport the day before. To Fred's relief, the usually impenetrable plastic shrink-wrap on the brand-new box sloughed off easily and he quickly fingered out one of the folded rectangular sheets of wax paper that held the powder like a professionally packaged gram of something else entirely. With one throbbing eye on the road, Fred unfolded the two ends of the rectangle and then the long top. He held one end closed and, with a jerk, tossed his bead back and poured the bitter powder into the back of his throat. He chased it with the remainder of his cream soda and, wincing slightly, swallowed the solution to all his problems. In no time flat, Fred forgot about his headache. Sadly it wasn't due to the fast-acting nature of the medicine. At first his face went numb and his breathing became irregular. He considered pulling to the side of the road, but the shoulder was only four feet wide before dropping sharply into the cane fields below. The eighteen-wheeler bearing down from behind prevented him from simply stopping in the middle of the road. Moments later, with no warning, Fred threw up violently, spewing his fried lunch onto the windshield. Panic set in as his body realized he was dying before his mind could grasp the fact, let alone ask why. Desperate to see the road in front of him, Fred wiped at the vomit covering his windshield. Smearing it only made matters worse. As if his compromised vision didn't make driving difficult enough, Fred began to hear sounds that didn't exist. His heart lapsed into what would best be described as irregular cardiac activity. But at least the headache wasn't bothering him anymore. Fred's mind fixed on why he suddenly felt like he was dying. His wheels drifted onto the gravel shoulder, kicking up a spray of rocks that scared the snowy egrets into the sky. Had Fred been listening to the radio, he'd have heard the DJ introducing an old Dorsey Dixon song. "Here's a classic country flashback on Kickin' 98!" But Fred wasn't listening to the radio anymore. All he could hear was what sounded like a chorus of outboard motors in his head. The auditory hallucinations were part and parcel of the process taking place throughout his body, namely, the total cessation of his cellular metabolism. His central nervous system was so compromised that it was shutting down, and not temporarily. Roy Acuff was singing about blood and whiskey mixed with broken glass strewn... (Continues...) Excerpted from Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh. Copyright © 2001 by Bill Fitzhugh. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.