Thursday, October 06, 2016

Hap and Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale

(2016: story/novella anthology -- thirteenth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

Overall review:

Hap compiles seven stories, which have been previously published and take place at different times. One of the stories, Veil's Visit, by itself makes this collection worth owning, because prior to this, it was only available in an expensive collector's item book.  Inexpensive, practical (for most Hap and Leonard fans) and entertaining, Hap is worth your time and cash.

Followed by the story anthology Hap and Leonard Ride Again.

Story by story:

1.)  "Hyenas": See Hyenas review.

2.)  "Veil's Visit" (co-authored with Andrew Vachss): Leonard's new lawyer, a bad-ass named Veil, defends him in court -- the charge: arson, stemming from events in Mucho Mojo.

This story, full of Lansdale's trademark lively banter, was originally published as an expensive/out-of-print novella Veil's Visit: A Taste of Hap and Leonard (1999).

3.)  "Death By Chili": Leonard solves a decades-old murder case without resorting to busting heads. This fun, super-short work sports a post-script recipe for "Lansdale Chili".

4.)  "Dead Aim": See Dead Aim review.

5.)  "The Boy Who Became Invisible": Originally published in the Hyenas novella, "Boy" is told from Hap's first-person point of view. In it, he looks back on an unfortunate childhood friend (Jesse) whose hard life leads to some brutal choices. The interaction between Hap and Jesse provide an effective heart-punch to this timely, you-can-guess-where-this-is-going short story.

6.)  "Not Our Kind":  In 1968, a young Hap and Leonard encounter racist, homophobic school bullies. They also glimpse a scene from their possible future.

7.)  "Bent Twig": Tillie, prostitute daughter of Leonard's girlfriend (Brett), becomes -- once again -- the reason why Hap and Leonard put themselves in danger, this time to rescue her from herself and her live-in pimp boyfriend. Of course, this is only the beginning of a much-larger-in-scope adventure for the do-right, brawling duo.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2016: twelfth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

"The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

"One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she'll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder."


Honky is one of my favorite entries in this series thus far. It has all the best aspects of previous Hap and Leonard page-turners, with its effective levity, lots of raw and realistic action, characters who are worth rooting for or hissing at, effective twists and a storyline that blends old and new elements – and characters, as well. New, colorful characters include the creepy, strange and compelling Booger; older characters include Vanilla Ride, Jim Bob, Cason Statler (Hap and Leonard’s playboy-reporter friend) and Marvin. Throw in a bunch of especially sicko hillbillies, and you have another future classic worth owning.

Followed by the story anthology Hap and Leonard.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Disciple by Laird Koenig

(pb; 1983)

From the back cover:

"They came together at the Willows.

"There by the riverside grave of his twin sister, Marc-Anthony met Brother Leaf, a soft-spoken man blessed with the awesome power to perform miracles. Cure the sick. . . Heal the crippled. . . Raise the dead. . .

"Marc Anthony became his most devoted disciple, and Brother Leaf rewarded his family with wondrous gifts. Love, for his lonely mother. Faith, for his arrogant father. Passion for his beautiful sister.

"Soon everyone came to Brother Leaf., for they believed he was a prayer come true. . . until the night of horror. Until the night when the miracles didn't work and the killing wouldn't stop."


Disciple is a fun, fast-read thriller about a family whose peril comes into being in the form a quiet young man whose underlying faith is more manipulative and dangerous than his uttered ideals and pursuits. There are few, if any surprises, in this tidy and well-written novel but that is not necessarily a bad thing if you keep your expectations modest and realistic about this effective tale of religious obsession, lies and other aspects of human darkness.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Whorehouse That Jack Built by Kevin Sweeney

(eBook; 2015: novella)

From the back cover:

"It was a whorehouse but not one open to just anyone. To get there you had to be dying or insane. The services offered were all offered for the same price, which was everything you had. There were paths there that only those who crossed the border into the Undiscovered Country could find, if they knew the landmarks to follow, the signs to watch for.

"Clem followed and watched and two days ago his mule had died of exhaustion and it was just him and Lady keepin' on who knew how and finally they came to a dead town with no name at twilight and whorehouse with a sign above the door that Clem could not read:


"A whorehouse run by demons. A whorehouse that offered the greatest pleasures a man could ever want. . . in exchange for everything he had.

"Am I gonna do this? Am I really gonna do. . .

"The cancer in his belly twisted spikes through his impacted bowels and in front of him lay Lady,  a sacrifice.

"And Clem pushed that door open and stepped through that threshold."


Whorehouse's story in a nutshell: an "albino sexorcist", trying to close portals to the Abyss, has sex with inbred demons while chanting holy litanies and otherwise trying to kill his hated lust-mates. Much of this takes place in the book's titular location, run by Marshall McGregor (an ugly dwarf) who also goes by the name of Jack -- a shortened version of his more infamous moniker.

Whorehouse is not a book for the easily offended or the easily queasy. It is an ultra-vivid, viscous and over-the-top whirlwind tale of twisted religion, divinities, sadistic sex and hyperviolence. . . it is an entertaining bizarro fantasy suffused with hentai-esque overtones, distinctive and worth owning.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Rhinemann Exchange by Robert Ludlum

(pb; 1974)

From the back cover:

"David Spaulding is the most feared and efficient Allied agent in wartime Europe. Expert, deadly and professional, he is also high on the Gestapo's 'most wanted' list. Now Spaulding has been selected by the Allied Command to transact an undercover deal in Argentina involving top secret Nazi scientific plans. The dealer is Erich Rhinemann, an exiled German Jew who is awaiting the end of the war with his millions in an impenetrable retreat near Buenos Aires. But there's something Spaulding doesn't know. The other side of the deal. And it involves the most bizarre, horrific intrigue of the Second World War."


Rhinemann, which runs from 1939 to 1944, is a slow-build conspiracy thriller. The Americans and the Germans each have something the other wants, so a secret, desperate deal is struck between the enemies, both of whom hope the other will not develop the resulting weapons first.

All the usual Ludlum elements are in place: the ticking-doomtime clock; the conflicted, betrayed and politically disavowed hero; the woman whom the hero cares about; the stretches of conspiratorial exposition, punctuated with explosive, brutal and realistic violence (often resulting in a high body count). This time out, though, Rhinemann's lead-in exposition runs longer than it does in other Ludlum works -- it is not a negative, but it is an adjustment on the reader's part; this lengthier lead-in is necessary up to a point, as there are quite a few characters who have to be introduced, whose personalities -- borne out by their actions -- impact the action when it booms on the page, bringing Rhinemann to a satisfactory, troubling and ultra-violent close.

It is worth reading. I would not own it, but I would recommend it, if it is borrowed from the library or if the book is bought for a few dollars.


The five-hour miniseries aired stateside on March 10, 1977. Burt Kennedy directed the one-episode miniseries, from a teleplay by Richard Collins.

Stephen Collins played David Spaulding. Rene Auberjonois played Dr. Eugene Lyons. Claude Akins played Walter Kendall. José Ferrer played Erich Rhinemann. Lauren Hutton played Leslie Jenner Hawkewood.

Vince Edwards played Gen. Swanson. Larry Hagman played Col. Edmund Pace. Werner Kemperer played Franz Altmuller.

John Huston played Ambassador Henderson Granville. Roddy McDowall played Bobby Ballard. Len Birman played Asher Feld.

Thayer David played an "Industrialist". John Hoyt played a "German scientist".

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dead Aim by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2013: novella. Eleventh book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

"The story begins simply enough when the two agree to provide protection for a woman harassed by her violent, soon-to-be-ex husband. But, as readers of this series will already know, events in the lives of Hap and Leonard rarely stay simple for long. When a protracted stakeout ends in a lethal shooting and a pair of moldering corpses turn up in an otherwise deserted trailer, the nature of this “routine” assignment changes dramatically. The ensuing investigation unearths a complex web of lies, duplicity, and hidden agendas that leads from an upscale Texas law firm to the world of organized crime. . . "


Dead Aim is a good, succinct read that reunites Hap Collins and Leonard Pine in a series-familiar and accelerated arc of humor, amity and violence. When the two brawlers are hired for a surveillance-and-forceful-persuasion job, inevitable corpses, complications and character-centered twists ensue. This is an entertaining, fast-burn work penned by a master-of-his-genres author, a work worth owning.

Followed by Honky Tonk Samurai.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

(hb; 2016)

From the inside flap:

"No one knows exactly when or where it began. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one. . . The doctors call it Draco incendia trychophyton. To everyone else it's Dragonscale, a highly contagious, dead spore that tattoos its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks -- before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

"Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she's discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, her and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob's dismay, Harper now wants to live -- at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers giving birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can stay alive long enough to deliver the child. . ."


Fireman is a too-long novel written by a normally excellent author. Hill has followed in his father, Stephen King's, path and taken a story that could easily be cut to three-quarters of its length and offered up a tale-bloated work that is worth reading if you are a fan of Stephen King's novels It and The Tommyknockers (in terms of length).

The first quarter of this 750-page book is excellent. After that, it starts to go downhill (shortly after Harper moves into Camp Wyndam, a refuge for those with Dragonscale). It is not that Fireman is a bad book, it has a lot of great writing and characterization (too much of the latter, at times) and this melding of humanity-based horror, romance, straining-for-epicness and social/political commentary is noble. That said, i
f you are not a fan of overly emotional characters and drawn-out storylines (I am not big on either), this might be an interesting-but-not-worthwhile experiment that ultimately fails -- and, sadly, one that Hill seems likely to strive for again, scope- and character-wise (if his post-novel notes are any indication).

I have little doubt this will be the basis for a future television/online miniseries or film. Maybe that will play better than this well-intentioned and sometimes well-penned novel.