Is Kinky Friedman the world's only Jewish Texas cowboy novelist? ''Oh, I'm sure,'' says the ''Kinkster,'' 58, sucking on a juicy Cuban in the no-smoking lounge of a swanky Manhattan hotel. ''I'm a cowboy...but it's hard to be a cowboy today. You've got to be pretty stupid.''
The guy who wrote and sang the '70s cult hit ''Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed'' with his irreverent country band, the Texas Jewboys, has been called a lot of things, but don't call him stupid. He is, after all, ''a professional friend of presidents.'' Pal Bill Clinton admires Friedman's 16 nutty cult detective yarns; his new novel, an antic tale of doomed love called Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned (William Morrow, $24.95), is his first non-mystery. And he's slept over at George W. Bush's White House.
Don't fence him in, though. ''I'm a charismatic atheist,'' Friedman drawls. ''I'm not a Republican or Democrat...I'd've probably been a Buddhist if it weren't for Richard Gere.'' And he sure didn't appreciate being called ''one of theirs'' -- meaning George and Laura Bush's -- by ''f -- -ing poet laureate'' Billy Collins in an interview in The New York Times Magazine last month.
Nonetheless, Friedman sticks up for his fellow Texan and ''sporadic pen pal'' George W. ''This guy is a Lieutenant Columbo, like the old TV series, and he knows it,'' he says. ''People think he's going to f -- - up and then he doesn't, is what I'm saying.'' The president, he adds, ''plays a lucky hand. That's why I'm sailing with him in this Iraq thing, because...when he's through, the Middle East is going to be a better place than it is now.''
An hour-long chat -- peppered with quotations from Hemingway, Gandhi, and Twain -- ends when a hotel staffer ejects him and his smelly stogie. ''Can't smoke in the f -- -ing lounge?'' he fumes. ''A guy could come in here and pull out a submachine gun and they'd still come after me and my cigar. That's what's wrong with America.''