Isle-themed adventure fails smell test
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" minus the treasure, R. Crumb minus the art, "Dumb and Dumber" minus the repartee — "The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure," by Jack Handey, is all these and less.
Handey, 64, won cult status in the '90s for his "Deep Thoughts" segments on "Saturday Night Live" and spinoff books of one-liners. Lately, The New Yorker has been publishing his riffs — comprising whole consecutive paragraphs, some mildly amusing — on Alexander the Great, bank robbery and his first day in hell.
"The Stench of Honolulu" is his first novel, based on what must have been very casual research.
True to form, Handey gets the setup out of the way in a hurry: "When my friend Don suggested we go on a trip to the South Seas together, and offered to pay for the whole thing, I thought, Fine, but what's in it for me?"
In time, Don and Wrong Way Slurps, the narrator, fetch up "in a dirty, coastal backwater called Honolulu." Rotting banisters break off in their hands. Prostitutes wrestle in the streets. A vulture is polishing off a dead bum.
Treasure map in hand, the travelers venture upriver in quest of the fabled Golden Monkey, guided by the sexpot Leilani, who is also a master mechanic. Cartoon baddies are in hot pursuit.
Have I mentioned the talismanic hula girl made of solid stenchite, which is "the pure, crystalline essence of stench," thousands of times more powerful than the regular kind?
In hardcover "The Stench of Honolulu" runs 240 pages in very large print. Not much for a novel, but for a one-liner, way long.