Vanilla Ride by Joe Lansdale
The Hap & Leonard books are the buddy films of the crime fiction genre with everything good, bad and ugly that the form entails.
The surface of the un-PC banter of these characters will no doubt provoke a few upturned noses but below the surface the dynamics are much more complicated then that. Fans of the series will already know this but Hap is a white, heterosexual former 60’s activist and Leonard is a black, homosexual, Vietnam vet. So their deep bond to one another adds layers of depth to these characters and becomes it’s own commentary.
It’s also refreshing seeing an un-typified portrayal of a gay man. It’s easy to go the bitchy, swishy route for gay male characters and play then for laughs and Leonard is anything but.
While they may not be for everyone they are a lot of fun and Lansdale, as always, rips a hell of an entertaining yarn. This is the first Hap & Leonard in 8 years and coupled with Vintage’s re-release of the first 6 titles this is a great time to get acquainted with the boys.
Engelbrecht Again! by Rhys Hughes
Englebrecht Again! is one of the funniest, funnest, original and highly imaginative books that I’ve read in awhile. The exploits of the dwarf surrealist boxer are so downright whacky at times that you just shake your head and wonder how in the hell did Hughes come up with this scenario because he’s one of those writers that is popping with ideas. His throw away ideas would be other lesser writers centerpiece ideas.
I think that this book actually has the possibility of wider appeal then it might be credited for. It’s like the time my kids convinced my aunt to watch the cartoon Chowder; she may have spent the first few minutes scratching her head and saying WTF!?! but by the end she was loving it.
Rhys Hughes is bloody brilliant and more then a little insane (in a good way) check him out you won’t be disappointed.
Fugue State by Brian Evenson
No one writes about characters in disassociative states better then Brian Evenson. Others try to and get half way but ultimately fail to put you in that characters shoes and feel all of the resulting conflictive emotions that the state brings such as confusion, dread, fear and others among them.
All of the characters in Fugue State are in some form of a disassociative state.
From a women trapped in a mime’s invisible box to woman who feels as if a childhood moment of play that unexpectedly combined fear and wonder altered her forever to a man whose brain synapses mis-fire and he loses the capacity to speak.
That all of these characters states find their origins or are grounded in every day normal activities makes the characters all the more identifiable and their slide all the more terrifying.
Brian Evenson continues to add to one of the strongest short story bodies of work out there.