A couple of my favorite Lansdale character traits are front and center: for one, wife Ann. Lansdale has the wonderful habit of creating female characters who always kick some ass sooner or later. In one pivotal scene, Ann brains a man with a household object; seen through Richard’s eyes, she appears “like a Valkyrie.” Even if Lansdale’s women start off with the odds stacked against them (Sue Ellen and Jinx in Edge of Dark Water) or very vulnerable and fragile (Becky in The Nightrunners) he always seems to get in a few scenes that illustrate how strong and resourceful a woman can be.
Ann is not the only character who gets a little extra personality in this fast-paced novel. Richard Dane is portrayed as no slouch with his fists, but he’s also a relatively young man. Both Ben Russel and Jim Bob are past middle age and would be peripheral, though fascinating, characters in most books. Lansdale puts them right in the middle of the action and repeatedly demonstrates their endurance and need to make this situation right, long after most people would have given up. He’ll make you believe they can do it, too.
Lansdale has a dark sense of humor and a brilliant ability to translate physical tension onto the page. In this novel, originally published in 1989 (and a film by the time you read this), he blends crime, southern gothic, and his own brand of East Texas noir. Don’t miss it.