THROWBACK THURSDAY: REVIEWING A REISSUE
I’ve been familiar with Joe R. Lansdale through his short fiction, which has always impressed me, but for whatever strange reasons of fate, I’d never read any of his novels. When this book came across the ARC pile, I quickly requested it. It does NOT disappoint!
The book is being reissued because of the new movie that has hit the film festival circuit and should be available for the public about the time this review is published.
We start right out with an ordinary man, Richard Dane, who, protecting his family, shoots and kills an intruder in his home. Racked with guilt over taking a life, Dane seeks out Ben Russel, the intruder’s father, despite the police’s urging him to leave the Russel family alone. From that point on, Dane is bound up in a mystery racked with corruption and lies and brutality. Dane steps out of his ordinary life to see closure to the story.
Author Joe R. Lansdale does an excellent job of keeping the reader off-balance, tilting the story, or the characters, just enough to shake things up when the reader might otherwise start to settle in. And the further we go, the scarier and eerier it gets and there is the very real possibility that Dane will not get out of this.
Lansdale writes very real people. Everyone here, even those who have such a small appearance in the book, appear to be real people and not just a name. Richard Dane is us. He is ‘Everyman.’ He is also, clearly, the lynchpin which holds this story together. Those around him, his family, Ben Russel, and private investigator Jim Bob Luke (one of the most colorful characters I’ve read in a long time) pull Dane in different directions, creating complications to his otherwise routine (and safe) life.
And just as the people appear real, so does the setting. Though I haven’t spent any significant time in East Texas, I almost feel as though I’ve been there, just based on what I’ve read here.
This book is hard-boiled crime fiction. It is pulp fiction. Both terms often have a negative connotation to those who aren’t familiar with the genres, but this is crime fiction/pulp fiction at its best. It is dark, it is dangerous, it is wickedly humorous, and it is a good read.
So why not five stars? Because for me, there was one issue that I couldn’t get over. Dane makes a decision…one decision…that really puts him over the edge. And while Lansdale does everything possible to set this up and explain Dane’s motives for the decision, I don’t quite buy in to it. I accept it for the sake of the story, but it doesn’t quite ring true and spoils the results for me.
Fortunately, Lansdale writes so incredibly well that we can forgive the moment and keep ourselves wrapped up in the gritty story.
Looking for a good book? Cold in July is a great read (or even re-read) for anyone who loves hard-boiled, dark mysteries, crime fiction or pulp fiction. It’s a great summer read.
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Cold in July
author: Joe R. Lansdale
publisher: Tachyon Publications
paperback, 288 pages