This is part of the "Read aloud to Trista" revisiting of Stephen King's complete oeuvre. I have not read this one in going on fifteen years, so it was nice to revisit.
16) Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark. (2006, Hard Case Crime, 221 pages)
A hardboiled crime novel about a secondary character from Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) rough and nasty Parker series of heist novels. Here we find an actor trying to score some money from a couple of jobs, though he is haunted by the first line's prophesy of misfortune: "Grofield put a nickel in the slot machine, pulled the lever, and watched a lemon, a lemon, and a lemon come up." Biting, nasty, and short. Pitch perfect crime fiction with plenty of twists and turns (and a few that I did not actually anticipate).
17) Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale. (2009 reissue, Vintage Books, 192 pages)
Not so much read as listened to. An unabridged audiobook of the Vintage reprint, read by Phil Gigante (boy that sounds like a porn name, doesn't it?). This is one of my favorite Joe R. Lansdale novels (I've read it some four times, and now listened to on audio once), and the start of his Hap and Leonard series (to be continued this June!). Crime fiction set in East Texas with a pair of likeable losers. Narrator Hap Collins finds himself unable to resist the charms of his ex-wife, and when she shows up with an offer of a hefty sum of cash, should he help her friends dredge up a lost getaway car from the Sabine River, he should know better than to say yes. However, he listens to his little head instead, and soon finds himself up to his neck in trouble. Luckily, he has brought his pal Leonard along... At turns funny, horrifying, and touching, this is a fabulous revisit (or jumping on point) to Lansdale's quirky fiction.
18) Drood by Dan Simmons. (2009, Little&Brown, 771 pages).
An often eerie novel about Charles Dickens' obsessions with a phantom foreigner (called "Drood") as told through the jealous, drug addled "genius" of Wilkie Collins. The narrator is rude, witty, biting and a general prick, but the novel is filled with beautiful writing and bite. Not the sort of novel I might have expected from Simmons, but certainly a delight for the English Major in my soul and the language loving reader in my heart.
19) The Last Quarry by Max Allen Collins. (2006, Hard Case Crime, 201 pages)
An aging hitman stumbles onto a kidnapping and decides to try to take advantage of the situation. He ends up attracting the wrong attention, and danger follows. As well as a dalliance with a sexy librarian. No real surprises in this one, but it is the perfect braincandy followup to Drood, something light and fun (and funny) and not even trying to be in the same league as the Simmons novel.
20) Expensive People by Joyce Carol Oates. (1968, Modern Library, 224 pages)
The second volume of Joyce Carol Oates' thematically linked Wonderland Quartet. Explores the psychology of a child murderer (that is a murderer who happens to be a child, or a child who happens to be a murderer, as opposed to an adult who murders children) as well as a gently satiric approach to the art of writing fiction. A complex novel for being so compact, it is no wonder that the thing was nominated for the National Book Award (though it, like A Garden of Earthly Delights, did not win). This one has a special place in my heart, since it takes place in a fictional suburb of Detroit (some parts of which I recognized).
21) Lost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale. (2007, Vintage Books, 351 pages).
A supernaturally flavored crime novel set in Lansdale's Mud Creek, Texas. In this one, Harry Wilkes has the paranormal ability to witness flashes of past violent crimes triggered by sounds (For example: The clicking of a toilet seat lid could trigger a past suicide by shotgun committed on that commode). The story follows Harry's attempts to get out of the bottle, to come to terms with the complexities of women, and finding his center (though the study of martial arts) as well as solving a crime that haunts both himself and his childhood crush. A cast of colorful characters, pervasive earthy talk, and a wicked sense of humor make for a fun read. The ending is somewhat disappointing for Lansdale, who I perhaps put on too high a pedestal. Everything fits well enough, but I found the solution telegraphed a bit too clearly in the earlier chapters.
22) Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale. (2009, Vintage Books, 320 pages)
An unabridged audio recording of Vintage's reprinting, read by Phil Gigante. Mucho Mojo was the first Lansdale novel I read, back in its first printing from Mysterious Press in 1994, and it remains a wonderful book for my money. Second in the Hap and Leonard series, it recounts the tale of an inheritance that leads to old murders and more. Crime fiction spiced with plenty of insightful attacks on the more intolerant members of religion (Leonard is a stong, well written character who refuses to back down from attacks upon his homosexuality). A fun, quick listen (or read), and the gateway drug that led to my current fan-gasmic delight with all things Lansdale.
Have I visited Lansdale country a little too much, of late? Maybe I need a break . . .
Currently reading: Night Shift (aloud to Trista) and trying to figure out what to read next . . . I tried to jump into Moore's Fool, but I was not quite in the mood.