Devil Red

Devil Red   by Joe R Lansdale

Well, I did tell you that I was going to read other Lansdale books in quick succession. I have two more to go after Devil Red.

This novel is one in the very popular Hap and Leonard series, about two good friends, and tough guys, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble in East Texas.

On this occasion they have been hired by their buddy, Marvin, to investigate a cold case involving the cold-blooded execution of a young couple. Hap (Collins) and Leonard (Pine) begin inquiries that turn up the existence of a vampire cult with a sordid history. I do wonder if vampire cults can have any other kind of history. Well they would hardly have a fluffy history now, would they?

Anyhoo, further investigations uncover a signature left at the scene of a number of crimes, which leads our intrepid pair to search for an extremely professional serial killer/hitman.

They are eventually assisted in this by the beautiful, and dangerous, Vanilla Ride, eponymous anti-heroine of the last Lansdale book I reviewed. Miss Ride – in Ireland that would mean that she is very sexually attractive, like Jessica Alba, or the dark-haired girl who works at the check-out down at the local Eurospar – is possibly the number 1 hitperson in the US, and has assumed a cameo role in this tale. Hap and Leonard tend to gather such miscreants to them as they stumble from one crisis to the next, all the while throwing wisecracks with great aplomb.

In Devil Red, we see a slightly different side to Hap, or perhaps it is a side shown in greater detail. The revelations add new depth to the overall premise that flows through this series. In Devil Red, the usual plot structure is thrown somewhat on its head. It’s a refreshing tactic from a master of the narrative. The dialogue, whilst sharp and witty, doesn’t quite reach the highs of Vanilla Ride, yet the storyline is as intriguing as always, and I kinda liked the different feel to the story.

Hap’s beautiful, fiery and crude-talking girlfriend, Brett, plays a strong part in this tale, and the story is better for her. She jokes with Hap about engaging in prostitution, ‘Yeah, I made three hundred dollars and there was a pony involved.’ As you can tell, Brett doesn’t shock easily, which is a good thing considering the trouble that both Hap and Leonard bring to her door.

Leonard, who is a large muscular gay man, describes Hap’s todger thus, ‘That thing looks like a spoiled turkey neck.’ Both men are as close as brothers (who don’t fight over the last slice of bread or secretly shit in one another’s socks) and their bond is the glue that holds the entire series together. This bond becomes precarious in Devil Red, as Hap is challenged on many different levels. In addition to Hap’s own existential crisis, Leonard has taken to wearing a deerstalker hat which, in East Texas, is tantamount to drawing a target on your head.

The final scenes of this novel are akin to what would be found in a James Bond story. We have violence throughout, with beautiful women and beautiful men, and guns, and bombs, more guns, bigger guns,tacos, car chases, Shit-fingers, the Dixie Mafia and a whole load of ornery people. What a life.

Devil Red is yet another literary treasure. The Swedes can shove the Nobel up their sauna-steamed hole, as I would rather read Lansdale than pretty much anyone who has ever received said prize. It’s about time that popular opinion began to count when they are selecting winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I vote Stephen King next, followed by Lansdale, then Nora Roberts (as J.D. Robb) with John Sandford close behind Nora’s behind.

I have just noticed that my selection consists entirely of US authors. Fuck you, United States of America, for giving us literary greats – I’ll toss in Hemingway and Steinbeck here – who fuel our dreams and stretch our smiles, whilst you then present the world with the Bush family, Truman, Cheney, the Clintons, Paris Hilton and Trump. US, you are seriously fucking with my emotions. Shake off your politicians, your corporations, your war-mongers, and give us more beautiful novels, movies and music (Greenday and Linkin’ Park, oh yeah!).

As with all Lansdale books, I highly recommend Devil Red. It’s slightly deeper than Vanilla Ride, but still entertaining and will ensure that you stay with it until it’s quickly finished. I’m already enjoying the next one.

Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. Treat yourself with this book.

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