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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
'Man this was something. An East Texas bouncer, a black queer, a ex-sweet potato queen, a six-foot-four overweight retired hit man and former reverend, and a redheaded midget with an attitude. The only thing we needed to top our wagon off were a couple of used-car salesmen, a monkey and an organ grinder.'
With a cast of characters like that, you know you're in Joe R. Lansdale territory. Lansdale, despite unanimous critical acclaim and a cult following to die for, remains crime fiction's best kept secret. The most beloved of his many novels belong to his series that revolves around the soft-spoken bouncer Hap Collins and his rowdy gay sidekick Leonard Pine, reluctant heroes in Lansdale's darkly funny world. Their latest adventure, Rumble Tumble, is a little more lighthearted than previous outings (particularly the brilliant Bad Chili) but remains one of the year's most important releases.
While Bad Chili focuses on Leonard's love life (or lack thereof), Rumble Tumble turns its attention towards Brett Sawyer, the hot-tempered, tough-talking, red-headed knockout that is currently Hap's flame. Just when Hap and Brett's relationship is coming to a pivotal turn in the road, word comes to Brett — via a gun-wielding backstabbing midget named Red — that her daughter Tillie is in trouble. And this, being a Lansdale novel, is Trouble with a capital 'T.' Red, it seems, was Tillie's pimp, helping her climb the corporate ladder in the wonderful world of hooking. But a few bad judgment calls by both Red and Tillie have ended with Red roughed up and Tilliesentoff to become a personal plaything for 'The Farm' — a Mexican complex for a hundred or so hulking, Nazi-esque motorcycle-riding, killers with a penchant for sex, drugs, and dead prostitutes. And Brett, with the help of Hap, Leonard, and Red's murderer-turned-preacher brother Herman, is going to do what it takes to bring Tillie home.
The plot is even wilder than this brief synopsis makes it sound, but the characters themselves are the novel's true powder keg. Hap, the narrator, would be interesting even if he were only reading the phone book, but with such a wacky crew and a refreshing avoidance of anything remotely politically correct, Rumble Tumble is a consistently hilarious experience. But humor isn't all that Lansdale has going for him; he evokes a truly suspenseful atmosphere, and the complexities of story and character give his writing a depth to which most crime authors don't even begin to aspire. There's no way to predict what can happen in one of these novels: good guys can die, bad guys can survive, hoped-for confrontations can fall through, and seemingly incidental events can turn apocalyptic. Riding shotgun with Hap and Leonard is a roller coaster ride from page one straight through to the frantic finish — and we wouldn't want it any other way.