Monday, December 2, 2013
Hot In December
No one does dread better than Joe. R. Lansdale.
His latest, Hot In December, weighs in at a slim 108 pages, but he manages to put that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach almost immediately. (As a quick aside, the page count is small, but Lansdale packs in a ton of story...most other Authors could have milked this for three or four hundred pages.)
Veteran Tom Chan has been living a quiet, peaceful life since returning home from the war, but that comes to an abrupt end as Tom manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and witnesses his next-door-neighbor being run over by a hit-and-run driver. Upon offering his testimony to the police, Tom is informed that the man he saw speeding away from the crime scene was Will Anthony, son of Pye Anthony, a violent East Texas crime boss. Offering to testify in open court is, the officers advise him, as good as signing a death warrant on Tom, his wife, and child. But Tom is a good man, and never wavers from his commitment to do the right thing, even when he and his wife are violently abducted and told what will happen to them if he doesn't recant his statement immediately.
Tom is not totally helpless, though...he looks up an old Army buddy, Cason Statler, an award-winning reporter who puts him in touch with a man they both served overseas with: Booger, a violent psychopath who Tom hires as a bodyguard. Lansdale sets his cast of well-armed veterans, violent mobsters, and crooked cops on a collision course, and East Texas will never be the same again....
As I said earlier, this is a slim book, but Lansdale packs it with story and characterization, and it moves at a frantic pace. While a standalone novella, Hot In December is peripherally connected to his Hap & Leonard books, but readers unfamiliar with those books will have no trouble following the story.
Hot in December is classic Lansdale: A rough, violent tale of blood and revenge told in his own self's one-of-a-kind voice. Highly recommended.