Sunday, December 18, 2011

Books: Joe R. Lansdale; Tom Piccrilli

HyenasHyenas by Joe R. Lansdale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe R. Lansdale's "Hap and Leonard" series is one of the finest in contemporary crime fiction, with equal parts bawdy humor and sudden violence propelling the stories along. Set in east Texas, Hap, a white, straight former hippie and Leonard, a black, gay military veteran make an unlikely buddy combo, but as this series has borne out, opposites attract and these characters have made for some wonderful stories. In this novella, Leonard is involved in a bar fight which he wins brutally and easily. In the aftermath, one of the assailants is so impressed that he hires Leonard with Hap in tow to rescue his brother from an armed gang he has taken up with. After getting the brother out, things go pear shaped and Hap's girlfriend is taken hostage. After Hap and Leonard abort a bank robbery the gang had planned, they head for the final violent showdown. This novella has all the hallmarks of the classic Hap & Leonard stories, the bravado, the salacious humor and of course the violence as our knights in tarnished armor promise the kill the kidnappers and "shit on their graves." Also included is a poignant Hap solo story from when he was growing up. A story of bullying gone wrong, this makes for a thoughtful object lesson in the nature of cruelty.

Pentacle - A Self CollectionPentacle - A Self Collection by Tom Piccirilli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An un-named sorcerer and his demonic companion "Self" travel modern America hobo-style, fighting evil both human and supernatural in this collection of linked short stories. Like most of Piccrilli's great characters, the sorcerer carries a lot of baggage: the death of his beloved, and his parents, and his knowledge of the supernatural and his spell-casting power that sets him apart from the rest of society. His "familiar" Self is a great character too, part faithful companion, part rival, the two complement each other like the most unusual crime-fighting duo you have ever encountered. Their adventures include preserving the lives of children in a Hopi village after a demonic invasion and battling modern day sadistic witch hunters that are killing and torturing in the name of the divine. The stories are harrowing, haunting works of horror, but are often punctuated by Piccrilli's trademark wry humor. Fans of modern dark fantasy like American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and the Charlie Parker series of John Connolly will find a lot to enjoy here.

All You DespiseAll You Despise by Tom Piccirilli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sibling rivalry of the highest order drives this stark and depressing tale of murder and deceit. Two brothers: one wealthy with all the trappings of success - the house, the car, the wife/kids, etc. is throwing it all away with booze, drugs and sexual liaisons. The other brother, haunted by the early death of his beloved wife lives an honest existence in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. When he sees evidence that his wealthy brother had killed a man during one of his alcohol and drug induced blackouts, he begins his own investigation into his brother's dark world and develops a shocking retaliation. This is about as grim as Tom Piccrilli can get, a novella filled with loss, mourning and tragedy. The brothers family ties and shared baggage ties them together at the hip, but their differences with be exploited at a shattering conclusion. Despite the depressing nature of this novella, it remains compelling as the dynamic between the brother and their crimes drives the narrative forward. Hatred, passion, seething rage and un-requited love fuel this all to possible story.

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.