Dan Steele has it made. He's on top of his game as creative director of the Prescott Agency in L.A., a jaundiced adman who looks at you and sees a narrow demographic - and a very fat paycheck. His identical twin, Michael, a do-gooder Catholic priest, can traipse around the Third World doing all the emergency relief work he wants. For Dan, doing good means havi...
Dan Steele has it made. He's on top of his game as creative director of the Prescott Agency in L.A., a jaundiced adman who looks at you and sees a narrow demographic - and a very fat paycheck. His identical twin, Michael, a do-gooder Catholic priest, can traipse around the Third World doing all the emergency relief work he wants. For Dan, doing good means having the biggest home entertainment center money can buy. But his life of conspicuous consumption is about to come to a horrible screeching whoa.
Just returned from Rwanda, Father Michael is ill, so Dan sends him to the hospital on his own insurance coverage; what's a brother for, right? But when Michael's disease turns fatal, Dan is suddenly facing a prison sentence for insurance fraud. Since Dan also needs to hide from an enraged copywriter whose brilliant idea he stole, the best solution is to take up the cloth and masquerade as his brother, the Father. Soon, Dan is thrust into a world even savvier in the wiles of marketing and mass persuasion than his own: the world organized religion. What's worse, in addition to the homicidal copywriter and a righteous insurance investigator, a shadowy and dangerous figure from Father Michael's past is also advancing ever closer toward Dan. And then the counterfeit clergyman lands at a run-down mission headed by the good-looking and strangely fascinating Sister Peg, who's determined to help the downtrodden even if she has to pull a gun or two to do it. Try as he might to fight it, Peg is beginning to give Dan impure thoughts about renouncing his vow - not that he ever took one, anyway.
From Publishers Weekly
What begins as an interesting equation of the advertising business and organized religion quickly degenerates into predictable slapstick humor in this somewhat crowded comic novel. Dan Steele, an up-and-coming creative director in a swank L.A. ad agency, is desperate to make partner. Trouble is, his manic-depressive mother, Ruth, periodically suffers bipolar episodes. Dan tries to help, but he's been living extravagantly and he's out of cash, so when lowly copywriter Scott Emmons comes up with the perfect ad campaign for a Japanese corporate client, Dan thinks it's only fair to steal Scott's idea. Scott goes postal with a .44 magnum, but before he can ventilate his sleazy superior, Dan has an unexpected visit from his long-lost twin brother, Michael, a priest back from a mission in Africa, where he witnessed Church and state corruption and tangled with a local warlord, who has left him with a terminal souvenir of his homeland. Dan switches identities with his brother so that Michael can be treated under his own health insurance, but Michael promptly dies and Dan is forced to continue his clerical impersonation to avoid felony insurance fraud. With the trappings of his former life repossessed and the maniacal Scott in pursuit, Dan finds a haven at last at a halfway house, where he meets Sister Peg, a transparently secular nun and antibureaucracy crusader. Sparks fly between the non-priest and non-nun; climax, fadeout and roll credits. Fitzhugh (Pest Control; The Organ Grinders) may have written Cross Dressing with deals in mind: according to the publisher, he even arranged with Seagram to feature their liquor products in his text. While he ably proves his comic wit on the printed page, and backs some of the novel's more informative sections with actual research, this novel is ultimately as slickly packaged and shallow as the industries it parodies. Film rights to Shady Acres/Universal Pictures and Shady Acres Entertainment. (June)
From Library Journal
Having taken on geneticists in his earlier effortsDof which his latest was The Organ GrindersDFitzhugh turns his gimlet eye almost nostalgically to such tried-and-true satirical targets as advertising, the Catholic Church, and Los Angeles, demonstrating their staying power. Everything is finally coming together for rising advertising executive Dan Steele. His latest campaign (stolen from a colleague) is clearly considered the equal of "Where's the Beef?" Beverly is ready to lead him through the Kama Sutra, page by Technicolor page. It is then that things predictably start to unravel. His wronged colleague goes ballistic, he misses his rendezvous with Beverly, and his credit cards max out. When his twin brother, a Roman Catholic priest, returns from Africa to die, Dan happily assumes his identity only to learn that it's all a matter of image. Before his past catches up with him, it turns out that this slick operator fits almost too comfortably into the new Cat-o-Lite Church ("less guilt; more forgiveness"). Fans of other outrageous caper books, say, those by Elmore Leonard or Donald E. Westlake, might want to sample Fitzhugh. Fans of The Simpsons might keep Cross Dressing in mind during the summer rerun season. For all larger public libraries.DBob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO
Bill Fitzhugh has worked in radio, television, and film. He is the author of Pest Control, The Organ Grinders, and Cross Dressing. He lives in Los Angeles, California, where he is at work on his next novel.