Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine Series, Bk. 8)
Quick Thoughts: Devil Red has all the classic Hap and Leonard qualities, a tight plot, laugh out loud moments, deadly enemies, and tons and tons of heart. Reading Lansdale as opposed to listening allowed me to experience his technical prowess as a writer from a new perspective, although I did miss Gigante’s mastery of dialogue and the comic timing that he excels at, especially in this series.
Devil Red is the first book I have ever read by Joe R. Lansdale. I first discovered Lansdale about a year and a half ago in audiobook form. I had heard the name before, in conjunction with the movie Bubba Ho Tep, and occasionally mentioned on horror writer Brian Keene’s website forum. The first novel by Lansdale I ever listened to was Savage Season, the first Hap and Leonard book. I found it brutal and brilliant and its main characters were so unlike any others I had read before. It also was the second novel I had ever heard narrated by Phil Gigante (the first being Ultimatum by Matthew Glass) and it sky rocketed him up to one of my favorite narrators. I then went on to listen to the entire Hap and Leonard series, as well as a few of his excellent standalones including A Fine Dark Line and The Bottoms. Both highly recommended. When the latest Hap and Leonard novel Devil Red came out, I waited impatiently for the audiobook version, but discovered, after bugging a few people including the author himself, that there would be no audiobook. So, for the first time, I would be experiencing one of my favorite literary duos in print form.
After handling some unseemly business with a local hood who robbed an old lady, Hap and Leonard are brought in by their friend, and sometimes employer Marvin, a Private Investigator. A client wants Marvin to look into the death of her son and his girlfriend who happened to be a member of a weird vampire cult. What looks like a random robbery gone bad, turns out to be more when they discover the mark of a Red Devil at the scene, a signature found at a large number of murders. As usually, this leads to the kind of violence and mayhem that Hap and Leonard often find themselves in whether prepared for it or not. One thing I discovered by reading is how simple Lansdale’s writing style is. He manages to use an economy of words that is amazing when you realize how much depth they display. This is the style that is easy to underestimate, and it eventually wallops you in the head with its emotional impact. While the action is crisp and the violence brutal, the heart of this story is the relationship between Hap and Leonard. Despite differing in race, intelligence and even sexual preference these two characters are more than brothers. Both characters experience life threatening breakdowns, one mental and one physical, and it’s literally the love they share that helps guide the other during these moments. As always the dialogue is hilarious, each brother pointing out the other’s foibles, from Hap’s sensitivity to Leonard’s choice of hat, in a loving brutal honesty that makes you laugh every time. Devil Red has all the classic Hap and Leonard qualities, a tight plot, laugh out loud moments, deadly enemies, and tons and tons of heart. Reading Lansdale as opposed to listening allowed me to experience his technical prowess as a writer from a new perspective, although I did miss Gigante’s mastery of dialogue and the comic timing that he excels at, especially in this series.
For the audiobook versions of The Hap and Leonard Series, check out Audible’s series listing.