Monday, August 4, 2008

Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale (country noir)

Cason Statler is an Iraqi War vet returned home to Camp Rapture, Texas. Before his time in the service — he signed up for Afghanistan after 9/11 but was shipped to Iraq, go figure! — Cason was a Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist, so the local paper is happy to hire the "local boy made good" as a columnist.

Cason is wondering if there'll be anything to write about in such a slow town when he comes across the notes left by his predecessor (best known for her weekly survey of local garden insects) regarding the unsolved disappearance of teenager Caroline Allison.

Meanwhile, Cason struggles with the return to his hometown, among other things: living at home with his parents again in the wake of his more successful brother; a drinking problem that may or may not be out of hand; and being dumped by the girlfriend whose presence helped see him through the war.

When Cason's brother Jimmy's reputation is threatened by blackmailers, this pair of Statler brothers have to work together as a sort of private detective/vigilante team, and Cason learns that his brother has weaknesses too. Including one that connects him to the Allison girl.

Nearing the end of his third decade as a horror and crime fiction author, Joe R. Lansdale (winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for The Bottoms, and more Bram Stoker Awards than you can count on one hand) is still topping himself with each new novel, singling himself out with his particular style of down-home noir.

Leather Maiden combines Lansdale's talents for mystery plotting, quirky but realistic characterizations, colloquial dialogue that doesn't resort to dialect, and an intense portrayal of the dark and light of daily life in the rural South that can only come from a native. The result of this is a novel that offers emotional depth and authenticity along with a fun read. Last year, I wrote that Lost Echoes, Lansdale's previous novel, was "very likely the best thing he has ever written." Leather Maiden may be even better.


Chris said...

Sounds good. Haven't read anything by this author, but your review makes me want to check it out! I'm going to see if my library has it.

Craig Clarke said...

Thanks, Chris. I'll recommend Lansdale to anyone who'll listen. As long as you like his style, you can't really go wrong with his work.

KentAllard said...

Can't wait to get into this one!

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