The EMPEROR’S REVENGE – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison

The Emperor's RevengeAs is usual Cussler, history, treasure and world-threatening events intertwine to give us another exciting read from a master of adventure.

Napoleon Bonaparte, imprisoned on the island of St Helena, dies of arsenic poisoning, as we all know. Well, of course, we don’t really know, do we? Feasibly, his double, so often used to take his place in public occasions that Napoleon wanted to avoid, is brought to the island in secret to once again take his place. Now in debtor’s prison on the verge of disgrace, the double chooses death and money for his family instead.

Retreating from Moscow, Napoleon had secreted his looted treasures and nobody has been able to find it, but the clues lie in the margins of a book once in his possession, and the book is up for auction. Someone, with a ship as superior as the Oregon under the command of Juan Cabrillo, is after not only the treasure but also the ciphers that will cripple the electrical grid of Europe while he empties the bank accounts of the largest banks, and the trail will be erased.

Boyd Morrison

Boyd Morrison

That ship was fitted in the same Russian dockyard as the Oregon itself, but it has some superior firepower which brings the crew of the Oregon to fighting for their very lives as Juan in turn tries to block the attack on Europe.

clive-cussler

Clive Cussler

When you get to #11 in a series, you know the characters pretty well and they are old friends by now. So, wounds are okay, but generally you figure they’ll get through pretty unscathed, which deprives these tales of some of the tension they might otherwise have had. As with some other author factories, which the Cussler novels have become, these latter offerings, as this one is, sometimes don’t match the genuine article of earlier pure Cussler.

 

Thanks to the Penguin Random House marketing team for this ARC copy.

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The THIRST – Harry Hole 11 – Jo Nesbo

The Thirst - Nesbo.jpgHarry Hole has embedded himself solidly into the top of the ranks of detectives; and this offering is no exception. Heart-stoppingly tense, Nesbo not only gives a tight story, his characters are so real, so deep and so subtle that I am totally envious of his ability to coat the atmosphere with apprehension. Harry just has to walk into a bar and I am holding my breath, praying that his alcoholic past does not reach out and grab him by the throat.

The plot involves a maniac who haunts Harry’s dreams: The one that got away. A blood-sucking vampirist. The psychologist who has made it his speciality to define such a beast joins the team headed by Harry who has been asked to leave his job as lecturer at the Police Academy to track down this one maniac who has Oslo in ever increasing terror.

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Jo Nesbo

As ever, the characters are living, breathing, flawed and real. Nesbo makes them live and surprises the reader with his compassion for even the cracked vessels.

The flow moves from a trickle to a flood; the grip tightens imperceptibly, sprinkled with warmth, humour, shock, and passion. It is at once a who-dunnit and a thriller with twist after twist.

 

 

 

Thanks to Penguin Random House’s promo team for this ARC of the Harville Secker imprint.

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THE SLEEPWALKER LEGACY – Christopher Hepworth.

The_Sleepwalker_Legacy_pic0001An exciting thriller steeped in historical background starting two hundred years ago on a US battleground where British scientist George Napier witnesses a drug-driven massacre and vows to eradicate the drug called Berserker, but his drug company is taken over by his ruthless partner and we see the development of corporate skulduggery involving the pharmaceutical giants wrestling for worldwide markets.

Sam Jardine, his direct descendant, now takes up the fight, but the drug has moved into even more ruthless hands. Without loyal friends, he has no chance of succeeding, but he also isn’t quite sure just who is to be trusted. That is the who-dunnit aspect of the story that keeps one on the edge of one’s seat.

Christopher Hepworth

Christopher Hepworth

A tense yarn that ricochets around the globe from boardroom to battlefield, there is no let-up. There were some moments of not quite convincingly being saved-by-the-bell, but it was good entertainment and certainly not an author I’d hesitate to pick up more of.

Thanks to the author and to Instafreebies for this Kindle copy.

PDF Edition: http://christopherhepworth.com/eBooks/The_Sleepwalker_Legacy.pdf

ePub Edition: http://christopherhepworth.com/eBooks/The_Sleepwalker_Legacy.epub

Kindle Edition: http://christopherhepworth.com/eBooks/The_Sleepwalker_Legacy_Kindle.mobi

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PROTOCOL ONE – Nathan Goodman

Protocol OneThis is our introduction, and that of the FBI, to Jana Baker, a determined young woman who gets the internship of her dreams as PA to Petrolsoft’s billionaire CEO, Runa Dima. Petrolsoft is a software company with fingers in the oil futures pie, going from strength to strength. Dima’s cousin, Jeffrey, is a womaniser that makes the position not as attractive as it might have been, but Jana feels she can handle him. She is followed by a mysterious man who, despite her earlier suspicions, turns out to be an FBI agent.

At first she cannot believe that her employers are being suspected of having links to Al-Qaida, but in time she agrees to try and infiltrate the computers of the company to see if they are indeed up to no good.

And from there an exciting tale of a talented amateur, agents and terrorists unfolds as our first in the Agent Jana Baker Series. Well written, convincing characters, a gripping plot and a tense story keep us glued until the last word.

Nathan Goodman

Nathan Goodman

Thanks to Nathan Goodman and Instafreebies for this copy. This review is in recognition of the sterling work that makes quality stories available to the hungry reading public prepared to take a chance and don’t have to pay a penny. Or dime, or whatever.

Protocol One is the first book in Nathan Goodman’s bestselling Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series.

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The WORDSMITH – Alan Ayer

A horror story really, which, if you have not read the blurb, takes you by surprise. I started off, innocently, liking Walt the author, even though it was clear from the outset that he was a fraud. There was sure to be a good reason, after all…

The Wordsmith

If you accept the supernatural and horror as part of your diet, then the plot is excellent. But not my choice which is feasible crime by reasonable, if twisted and insane, criminals, solved by interesting determined characters.

Alan Ayer

Alan Ayer

Oh, it was a very readable tale up to the point where I realised that it has a supernatural element. It has flow, although I wondered at the over-detailed descriptions. Its continuity was not a problem until I began to doubt that there could be any goodness, any light. I continued with a sense of doom always hanging over the story, hoping I was wrong; that there might be some sort of salvation.

No, I won’t spoil it for you any more than I have already. There is a twist.

Thanks to the author for the Instafreebie copy. Despite not being of the genre I normally like to review, it certainly is a thrilling tale.

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HUNTER’S VENOM – Peter J. Earle

A review by JIM NESBITT of the first in the Detective Sgt. DICE MODISE SERIES.

HV cover front finalOne of the finest features of a Peter J. Earle detective novel is the rich and evocative detail he provides of the landscape of southern Africa, doing what too few novelists do these days, creating such a strong sense of place that it becomes a character unto itself.

In Hunter’s Venom, the first of Earle’s novels featuring Botswana investigator Dice Modise, the reader can almost reach out and touch the exotic flora and sometimes lethal fauna of a place the author knows well. But this isn’t exotica for exotica’s sake — Earle’s Africa becomes as real as a dime. And so do the characters that populate this fine book.

Earle also shows a deft touch describing the culture and folkways of the native-born and the understated tension between them and the white ex-pats who call this place their home. It is an uneasiness that never goes away, even between friends such as Modise and safari hunter Nick Cahill and his brothers.

The story Earle tells is a simple one — Carrie Fells, a young Englishwoman, is told the identity of her father by her dying mother years after the affair. Henry Barton, a tea baron and English country squire, is shocked but thrilled when Carrie shows up at his door and tells him who she is. They form an instant bond and Barton changes his will to include Carrie and promises they will continue learning about each other when he returns from safari in Botswana.

That starts a chain of lethal events as Barton’s jilted relatives start a murderous counter-offensive, including Barton’s death in a hunting accident that the grieving Carrie doesn’t believe was happenstance. She’s right and Earle shows the reader Barton’s grisly murder early on in the book while also revealing his killer, a hunter and distant relative named Bertie Vos, who seems more Boer than English.

Earle’s book is more thriller than whodunit as he masterfully sets up two irresistible forces on a collision course — Vos and his obsequious English cousins who want to kill Carrie after kidnapping her and getting her to waive her claim on Barton’s estate; vs Dice and the Cahill brothers, who include Nick, who falls in love with Carrie.

HV old cover

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Peter J. Earle

Along the way, Earle takes us on some gruesome side trails that add texture and complexity to the story, including the rape of a German ex-pat by three Botswanans who have been told by a powerful ngaka, or witch doctor, that having sex with a white woman and cutting her pubic hair afterwards would cleanse them from HIV. Earle shows a deft hand here, touching on the AIDS epidemic that still plagues Africa while describing the strong pull of traditional beliefs without making judgment.

James NESBITT

Jim Nesbitt – author of the Ed Earl Burch Texas thrillers.

Another grim turn: The German woman, Ingi Herder, comes to a singular and painful end at the hand of Vos, who also milks venom from cobras and mambas for researchers and has devised a delivery device for the poison that mimics the fang strike of a snake. Of course, Vos’ intended victim is Carrie.

Will Dice and Cahill find Carrie before Vos and those English fops kill her? Pick up Earle’s book and find out. It’s a crackling read.

 

See more of Jim Nesbitt’s reviews on
https://spottedmule.wordpress.com

 

 

Hunters Venom:

http://www.amazon.com/Hunters-Venom-ebook/dp/B007H06C94

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunters-Venom-Peter-J-Earle-ebook/dp/B007H06C94

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THE DEEPEST GRAVE – Harry Bingham

DS Fiona Griffiths no.6.

The Deepest GraveYou and I might be hooked on, now Detective Sergeant, Fiona Griffiths, but her new boss, DI Bleddyn Jones, nre head of the Major Crimes Unit in Cardiff, is not. Oh, yes, he is a good dedicated policeman, but he is soon giving Fi written warnings as he just does not get her weird modus operandi. Her previous boss, DCI Jackson, knew to give her just enough rope so that she just stopped short of hanging herself, but he is away giving serious thought to sailing off over the horizon.

Bored out of her tree, with no juicy murders to solve for more than a year, Fiona is relieved when the decapitation and ceremonious stabbing of an archaeologist grabs their undivided attention.

DI Jones is not interested in the ridiculous references to the mythical King Arthur that pop up, but Fiona is, and she befriends a young archaeologist PhD student, Katie, who had been working on the same dig as the woman who lost her head. As usual, the Bingham characters are warmbloodedly real. Fi’s father, Katie, and the minister, George Bowen are no exception.

The plot is jawdroppingly – is that a word? – twisted, but nonetheless logical, in that the baddies get the cops to do their work for them in the authentication of priceless antiquities, which is the score to be made if Fiona can’t solve the puzzle and stop the bodies piling up. Her own included.

HarryB

Harry Bingham

The ongoing mysteries of Fiona’s adoption and her step-dad’s nefarious past continue to float just out of reach with a small segment being added throughout the series, an added incentive (as if we needed one!) to ensure we keep coming up for more crumbs.

Strength to strength, Harry Bingham. Thank you for the ARC.

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THE THIRD RULE – Andrew Barrett

Eddie Collins CSI. No. 1.

The Third RuleHaving kicked off my positive acquaintance with Andrew Barrett with his CSI Roger Conniston  – The DEAD trilogy no.1 from Instafreebie, I was happy to accept the first in the Eddie Collins Series as well.

Once again, the Crime Scene Investigator and Police slants are knowledgeably and fascinatingly portrayed, and this time the detail was more smoothly dealt with as every detail was relevant.

Imagine a Britain where the death sentence is reintroduced. The Third Rule will apply. And proof is elastic.

“If you want to kill serious crime, you have to kill serious criminals.”
Sir George Deacon, Minster of Justice.

The Minister’s son, Henry Deacon, skates dangerously close to the thin ice of his father’s disapproval. It is more because of the possible discredit to his own good name that he sends his agent to hold the irresponsible young man’s hand, rather than concern for his son. It is the bending of proof that alerts CSI Eddie Collins, a man teetering at the abyss of alcoholism even before his wife kicks him out and his son is killed in a hit and run. He and his alcoholic friend, reporter Mick, join forces in a somewhat naive, blundering way.

If not for Eddie’s steadfast CSI partner, Ros, Eddie would have lost the plot long ago. There are a lot of characters to keep track of which is difficult at first, and undeniably frustrating; even involving some paging back which should be an author’s no-no. The two drunks, the loyal Ros, the power-hungry politicos, the ruthless government agent, the thief-cum-artist and his druggy girlfriend, the art dealer, the spiteful co-CSI, the head CSI, the cops and the crooked cops are all just too much.

Andrew Barrett

Andrew Barrett

That said, each is well-sculpted into a living breathing character by a skilful writer. I won’t be giving up on him any time soon as I believe his plots will become less tangled and his POVs will diminish to a more manageable handful with time.

Of half a dozen chances taken on Instafreebie crime offers, so far I have found three worthy of reviews here, although there has been a novella I found very readable, too. The jury is still out about whether novellas will feature in the future.

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A LONG TIME DEAD – Andrew Barrett

CSI Roger Conniston  – The DEAD trilogy no.1.

A Long Time DeadExcellent SOCO descriptions from an author who does it for a living – maybe just too much detail in this, seemingly one of his earlier novels, but it is an intrinsic part of the plot line and all but unavoidable. The intensity rises to throat-gripping proportions as the noose tightens.

The character of Roger Conniston, the CSI whose obsession with the actions of his nemesis, CI Weston, whom he is convinced is selling guns, interferes with his professionalism. As does keeping his affair with his therapist from his ill wife. For me this was a moral disappointment in this protagonist, but as the tense plot develops, his basic honesty overcomes his failings and I began to respect both the character and Andrew Barrett’s handling of his character’s flawed humanity.

The action slips tantalizingly between the police officers handling the two murders of young women stabbed in the neck and the Crime Scene Investigators they employ to capture the scene.

There are extremes from firm loyalty to deathly betrayal which are backbone to the twists and turns, the given and the surprises.

Andrew Barrett

Andrew Barrett

This might be the first time you, as with me, have heard of Andrew Barrett, but it won’t be the last. He has a lot more sharp and deadly arrows to his quiver.

The problem with giving the author’s earlier offerings as freebies is that the edges are still a bit ragged. A 5-day freebie of the latest might be a better attention-grabbing tool?

This was an Instafreebie offering, with thanks to Andrew Barrett. But…

An ARC of your latest for BOOK POSTMORTEM would be very acceptable.

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A Sense of Place – TEXAS 2

TEXAS: CREATING A LONE STAR SENSE OF PLACE FOR GRITTY CRIME NOVELS

By Jim Nesbitt

WJS_0349

Jim Nesbitt – author; hard boiled.

I come from a long line of hillbilly storytellers who instilled in me a deep and abiding sense of family, time and place as well as a rich appreciation of how the land shapes the people who live on it even as they’re trying to wrest a living from that land. This makes me a firm believer in creating a strong sense of time and place in the stories I tell, etching a detailed description that makes the setting come alive as a living, breathing character—not just a picturesque backdrop. Every author should do this—too few do.

In my mind, there’s no place like Texas to give gumption and texture to a gritty crime novel. Let’s be clear here: I’m not talking about spinning out a Texana caricature or making a grandstand play to the Texas of myth and legend. Stick to the real Texas and you’ll wind up with a tale told as much by the places you describe as the people, dialogue and action you create.

Texas Big Bend

Texas Big Bend

 

This belief was reinforced by the long, rollicking decades I spent as a roving correspondent for several newspapers and wire services. A goodly portion of that time was spent knocking around the border between Texas and Mexico, an imaginary line that really doesn’t have much meaning to a sun-blasted place that is a no-man’s-land, with a culture and people that don’t seem to belong to either country. I come from the Hemingway school and believe you need to experience life in order to write about it. Like the Brit generals say, you’ve got to walk the ground if you want to know it.

I’ve stood on the banks of the Rio Grande with a larger-than-life West Texas county judge, listening to his stories of rounding up cattle while I sipped warm Lone Star beer and munched on pork rinds. I’ve been drunk on Presidente brandy in the Kentucky Club in Juarez and have wolfed down breakfast tacos stuffed with organ meat slathered in a savory sauce while standing next to a food truck, warding off a hangover and the morning chill in Eagle Pass.

texas hill country1

Texas Hill Country

I also wandered the Hill Country, wading through calf-deep guano in the world’s sixth-largest bat cave near Mason, Texas. I’ve used a folding knife to carve smoked brisket and sausage at Cooper’s Old-Time Pit Bar-B-Cue in Llano, one of the holy shrines of Texas barbecue. I lived for a time in Dallas, home of my all-time favorite bar, Louie’s, founded by the late, great Louie Canelakes, who plays a cameo role in both my novels. I also came to know Houston, San Antonio and El Paso fairly well, the latter both as a boy visiting my uncles who were career Army sergeants based at Fort Bliss and a roving correspondent wandering the border.

I love the deceptive landscape of the Hill Country—green at a distance, dry and craggy up close. And I love the harsh starkness of the Big Bend, West Texas and northern Mexico—how the mountains collide and look like the bones of the earth ripped open. That wide-open, sun-blasted and evocative landscape stole my heart. It spoke to me then—still does now. It also seemed like the perfectly natural setting for the very primal and violent stories of revenge and redemption I tried to tell in my two hard-boiled Texas thrillers, The Last Second Chance and The Right Wrong Number.

In the first installment of this series, I listed five books whose writers make Texas come alive by the standard I describe above. Some are native born; Texans are mighty particular about who can call themselves Texans. Only those born there can. However, foreigners like me can fall in love with the state and some of the books I list are by no-account outlanders who can pine for Texas and wax poetic about it, but will never be able to call themselves Texans. Some are legends long dead and gone, others are gone and were deeply underappreciated while they walked among us. Some exclusively work the gritty, hard-boiled genre while others rove a broader, more literary range. A few are younger writers who nailed it right out of the chute.

Here we go with the next five authors, in no particular order. I’ll even give you some gaudy patter about what I learned from each writer and their pure-dee Texas crime novels.

The Far Empty

By J. Todd Scott

Scott is a younger writer, a Kentuckian by birth, so he can’t claim to be a Texan. No matter. His long career as a federal agent chasing border bad guys has given him the same keen sense of place for the stark, parched and violent landscape of West Texas that I have. It’s ethereal and spooky country and its people grimly battle to eke out a living and stave off the ravages of a harsh and unforgiving land. It’s clear that Scott has intimate knowledge of these badlands. As a Brit general would say, he’s walked the ground. And he uses that knowledge to make the mythical town of Murfee come to life as well as the craggy land on the north side of the Rio Grande. His descriptions of place are so vivid and detailed, they fairly leap off the page to stand as equals to his characters. The tale he tells is rich with Old Testament undertones as timeless as the murderous relationship between David and Absalom and the struggle for dominance and independence that takes place between all fathers and sons. Caleb Ross is the brooding teenage son of a legendary Texas sheriff, Stanford “Judge” Ross, boss of the town and surrounding county and a corrupt law-and-order fraud—possibly worse. The Judge’s wives have a tendency to die or disappear on him; the latter is how Caleb’s mother left their home and he’s haunted by her absence and convinced his father killed her. Chris Cherry is a flamed-out football star with a ripped-up knee who returns home with wife in tow, feeling adrift and sorry for himself until the Judge offers him a job as a deputy. When Cherry finds bones in a shallow grave on an outback ranch, Scott’s story shifts into high gear, with flashes of sudden violence and characters set on a collision course. At times, I felt like I was reading a Larry McMurtry novel, both for its note-perfect feel for West Texas and its tendency to meander about four or five chapters past where the author could have ended the story. But these ain’t necessarily bad things for a novel this fine.

Rain Gods

By James Lee Burke

Burke, lauded as the William Faulkner of the crime thriller, is best known for his novels featuring alcohol addicted and moralistic Louisiana cop Dave Robicheaux and his unpredictably violent sidekick, Clete Purcell. The settings of New Orleans and the Cajun wetlands around New Iberia are so poetically described in the Robicheaux novels that Burke seemed destined to be forever identified with those places. What people have come to understand with his latter novels is that Burke, who was born in Houston, has deep Texas roots, with ancestors that include a vicious gunfighter-turned-saddle preacher who roved the Chisholm Trail thumping the Good Book. His series of Holland family novels tap into that personal Texas history and Burke brings his finely-tuned reverence for time, place and blood ties to make the West Texas border country come to life in this excellent thriller that features an ageing Hackberry Holland, once a bad drunk and womanizer haunted by his Korean War experiences as a POW, now a small-town Texas sheriff grieving the dead wife who rescued him. Burke lives up to the Faulkner saying about the past being always present and never even being past —his characters are haunted by it, some literally. Burke is also living proof of what I mean about hard-boiled crime thrillers being an American art form. His prose is rhythmic and poetic, verging on purply and the dead opposite of the clipped staccato expected in noir and hard-boiled tales. That taught me a valuable lesson when I set out to write my own crime novels—let the prose rip and don’t be afraid to commit wretched excess. Burke also makes this book far more than a who-done-it about the machine-gun murder of nine Thai women being smuggled into Holland’s county to become prostitutes. He uses Holland’s hunt for the perpetrators of this grisly crime as a platform for his crackling takes on human trafficking, the uneasy relationship between Anglos and Mexicans on the border, the internal clockwork of a serial killer who thinks he has a direct line to God, the tension between violence, addiction, shame and redemption—and, the lasting nature of grief. But where this novel truly shines is in Burke’s striking and elegiac passages about the landscape of West Texas.

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson

Decades before Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffery Dahmer, Velma Barfield, Gary Ridgway and an endless string of American psychos made serial killers a part of the national nightmare and a stock Hollywood staple, Jim Thompson etched a terse, sinewy portrait of that particularly American monster. His 1952 novel is still considered both a noir classic and a work that transcends the genre. Thompson’s killer, Deputy Lou Ford, seems as apple-pie normal as can be, a genial nice-guy on the surface given to spouting boring platitudes and bromides that give him the reputation of a dullard and bore. That’s on the outside. On the inside, Ford is psycho with what he calls ‘the sickness,’ a secret sadist who enjoys grinding a cigar butt into a bum’s hand and beating a hooker senseless—a turn-on for them both. They become lovers and co-conspirators in a blackmail scheme. Lou has other nasty habits besides killing and violent sex. He also injects himself with drugs he steals from his physician father’s stash. Lou is Exhibit One in Thompson’s caustic indictment of 1950s small-town hypocrisy. But to make these charges stick, he has to make mythical Central City, Texas come to life with painstaking detail, capturing both the banal and the corrupt. He does so with sparse but telling narrative, taut dialogue and a knack for juxtaposition just as deft as the dark contrast between Ford’s superficial self and the killer inside him.

Bum Steer

By Ben Rehder

Rehder’s novels—in particular, his Blanco County mysteries—are darkly comic, full of characters that skitter right to edge of that most Texas of all caricatures, Bubba, the mythical, beer-swilling backcountry redneck that never met a gun, deer stand, pickup or double-wide he didn’t love. In most cases, Rehder is setting you up for a bootlegger’s turn, an unexpected 180 that upends your expectations with a dimension you didn’t think his characters could possibly have. Take Billy Don Craddock and Red O’Brien, the deer-poaching protagonists of this Rehder tale. They’re a pair of ne’er-do-well Bubbas who share a double-wide in the Hill Country an hour west of Austin. They’re also inveterate schemers addicted to casual mayhem but they aren’t truly bad men. Craddock, a bear of a man, turns out to be a blackjack savant while O’Brien has guile and a sharp eye for angles and lies and brains to go along with his balls. The lies of O’Brien’s tweaker cousin put both Bubbas in the crosshairs of a truly bad hombre, a meth lord and killer whose sister was gored by a prize bull the cousin tried to rustle from a rancher’s pasture. Rehder, a native son born in Austin, has a sharp eye for detail and an understanding of small-town and rural central Texas and the people who live there, including those who return from the big city like Lone Star homing pigeons. And he plays it utterly straight and true in his dead-solid-perfect descriptions of that deceptively scenic country and its up-close harshness — the choking caliche dust, the sharp-thorned mesquite, the bone-dry banks of a man-made lake. This gives authenticity to his comic opera mysteries. The Texas he describes is true and keeps his novels from veering into a ridiculous abyss of Texana caricature.

Honky Tonk Samurai

By Joe R. Lansdale

Lansdale is a fearless and prolific writer, utterly courageous about busting the conventions of genre and creating outlandish characters and situations that range from the ridiculous to the sublime, characteristics that would doom a story told by a lesser talent. Consider one of his minor characters, the lethally carnal hit woman named Vanilla Ride, who wears black leather pants so tight you could see the outline of a quarter in her pocket—that’s almost a quote and I’m pretty sure Lansdale was alluding to an outline of a different sort. I’m a big fan of his Hap and Leonard series and enjoy the small-screen success these durable and scruffy survivors are having these days. Only Lansdale would pair two orphans thrown together by casually random tragedy in the piney thickets of East Texas—one of them a redneck child, the other black. Only Lansdale would forge a bond so strong between them that it transcends race and makes them brothers in everything but blood. And only Lansdale would make the black orphan a gay, Republican badass, a loose cannon Marine emeritus (there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine) with a mean streak a country mile wide. That’s Leonard Pine. Hap Collins is equally prone to step in deep shit and equally ready to solve a problem with his fists even though he’s a draft dodger and usually advocates a first try at a peaceful solution to their troubles. In this story, Hap and Leonard set out to discover the fate of the granddaughter of an ancient hooker. They wind up stumbling across a classic car-hookers-and-drugs honey trap set to blackmail rich marks run by the Dixie Mafia. They’re also in the crosshairs of a vicious family of killer bikers. Cue the return of Vanilla Ride, who flies in from Italy to lend a deadly hand to Hap and Leonard in the form of a hopped up Buick with a trunk full of sniper rifles and commando gear, perfect for a night assault on the family compound. She also has the hots for Hap and repeatedly tries to seduce him away from his girlfriend Brett. Lansdale is always generous with raunchy dialogue, graphic violence and non-stop banter laced with bad puns and cheerfully unapologetic sexism. The anchor for all of Lansdale’s criminal tales of the redneck baroque is the pine-choked landscape of East Texas, its claustrophobic thickets, its stifling humidity, its grim small towns that seem on the verge of being reclaimed by those dark and menacing pines. Hap and Leonard may venture into the big city—or what passes for same in East Texas. But they always return to land of the Big Thicket to drink in the humid, pine-laced air and wait for their next calamitous adventure.

right-wrong-number

 

Jim Nesbitt is the author of two crime thrillers, THE LAST SECOND CHANCE and THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER, that feature battered but dogged Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch. With vivid and detailed descriptions of the stark and rugged landscape of the Big Bend Country of West Texas, both books create a strong sense of place that frames gritty tales of revenge and redemption. Both books are available at amazon.com/author/jimnesbitt or www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01D2D9ASO. Nesbitt, an ex-journalist, lives in Athens, Alabama.

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