Audiobook Review: Dead Aim by Joe Lansdale

30 01 2013

Dead Aim by Joe Lansdale (Hap Collins & Leonard Pine, Bk. 10)

Read by Phil Gigante

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Dead Aim is the glorious return of Hap and Leonard to audio. I listened to the audiobook with a shit eating grin plastered to my face, laughing out loud at inappropriate times and not caring one bit about the nervous glances I was given. Anyone looking for a fun mystery full of action, some inappropriate humor and two of the best characters in fiction today, run and nab yourself a copy of Dead Aim, then when you’re hooked on these two smartasses, grab the rest of the series.

Grade: A

I am a person who places a high value on friendship. I don’t make a lot of friends. I can be social, and spend time interacting with lots of people on a surface level, but the true commitment of friendship is something that it takes me much longer to develop. I definitely never insta-friend, nor have I ever fallen in love at first sight. One of the saddest things for me is when someone I truly value as a friend moves away and we lose contact. As I get older, this happens much more often, yet, recently a few of my dear friends that moved to the farthest comers of the earth, have moved back to my area, and for me, this is a big cause for joy. As someone who also values books, when characters I love leave, when a series ends or a character dies, I feel a sense of loss. Yet, I find this to be even greater when these characters are within the digital pages of an audiobook. One of the biggest complaints about audiobooks is that a narrator creates another level between the reader and the character. Yet, with the perfect narrator, this is also one benefit of audiobooks. When I read, I often merge with a character, attributing aspects of myself to them, and comparing them to me. They become me, or a friend, or someone in my life, on a subconscious level. Reading can become an almost egotistic act where you become the hero. When a narrator becomes a character, adds a new dimension to these characters, reflects emotion that you may not when reading, characters can become more real, independent creations. More like friends that compliment you, than reflections of you. One of my favorite series that I have experience totally in audiobook form is Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series. Through the voice of Phil Gigante, these characters became real to me. When this series was no longer made in audio, I read the novels, which were still great, but in someway, it was like my friends had changed a bit. This is why I was so excited to hear Phil would be back narrating the latest Hap & Leonard novella, Dead Aim. In many ways, it was like reconnecting with lost friends.

In Dead Aim, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are hired to protect a woman and “gently” persuade her soon to be ex-husband from harassing her and beating up her dates. Hap and Leonard are experts at gentle persuasion, especially when it involves their trusty axe handle. But when things go sideways, as often happens with out heroes, and bodies begin to drop, Hap and Leonard find that what they were told may not be the whole truth. Dead Aim is a classic Hap and Leonard tale. Lansdale melds together folksy wisdom, locker room humor and fast violence into something that is pure joy to experience. The heart of this series is the relationship between Hap and Leonard, a more than family bond that transcends race, and sexual orientation. Lansdale creates some of the most realistic, natural, yet uproariously funny dialogue that I have ever read. In all honesty, if Lansdale wrote a short story of Hap and Leonard waiting in a Dentist office, I would be thrilled. Yet, throw in a well conceived plot and some fast and furious action, and you get more bang for your buck in this novella than in the typical full length novel. Lansdale writes with an economy of words that it’s almost magical how fully fleshed out his stories are, and how highly visual the final confrontation is. Lansdale is a master at the turn of phrase, creating metaphors that would seem ridiculously corny, but comes natural to the characters he creates. Lansdale can summon a belly laugh out of what typically would only elicit a polite chuckle, then surprise you with the depth of the seemingly simple wisdom he’s sharing  If you are new to Hap and Leonard, Dead Aim would be a great way to meet these characters. While you may miss out on some of the back story, this novella stands well on its own and would totally wet your whistle, enticing you to go back to the beginning of the series.

If I was a poet, I would find a much better way to sing the praises of Phil Gigante in iambic pentameter but I’m not, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Gigante infuses this novella with Southern charm and wit, capturing these two characters perfectly. The Hap and Leonard series, along with his readings of Andrew Vachss Burke series, and the Stainless Steel Rat series are what made Gigante my all time favorite narrator. What’s great about Gigante is how he captures the flavor of each title he works on. There is almost a lackadaisical pace to his reading of Dead Aim, like a good friend telling a story after a couple or six beers. It makes the reader feel comfortable, allowing them to be just as ready for a dirty joke as a moment full of emotional resonance. Somewhere in heaven, the audiobook gods were singing a particularly special song the day Phil and Joe were placed together as a team, and every time I get to experience it, I sacrifice something to honor it. Dead Aim is the glorious return of Hap and Leonard to audio. I listened to the audiobook with a shit eating grin plastered to my face, laughing out loud at inappropriate times and not caring one bit about the nervous glances I was given. Anyone looking for a fun mystery full of action, some inappropriate humor and two of the best characters in fiction today, run and nab yourself a copy of Dead Aim, then when you’re hooked on these two smartasses, grab the rest of the series.

Note: Thanks to Dreamscape Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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