Leather Maiden

Leather Maiden

by Joe R. Lansdale


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375719233
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/18/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 579,906
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Joe R. Lansdale has written more than a dozen novels in the suspense, horror, and Western genres. He has also edited several anthologies. He has received the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, and seven Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers of America. He lives in East Texas with his wife, son, daughter, and German Shepherd.

Read an Excerpt

When you grow up in a place, especially if your childhood is a good one, you fail to notice a lot of the nasty things that creep beneath the surface and wriggle about like hungry worms in rotten flesh. But they’re there. Sometimes you have to dig to discover them, or slant your head in just the right direction to see them. But they’re there all right, and the things that wriggle can include blackmail, mutilation and murder. And I can vouch firsthand that this is true.

But the day I arrived back in town there was no evidence of anything wriggling under the surface or anywhere else, unless you count my head, which seemed to be wriggling a lot. I was coming off a lowball drunk and felt as if someone had borrowed my skull to bowl a few frames.

As I drove through Camp Rapture, over the railroad tracks and past the dog food factory, I told myself I would never drink again. But I had told myself that before.

It was a bright day, the sunlight like a burst egg yolk running all over the sidewalk and through the yards, almost snuffing out the grass with its heated glory, and causing everything to be warm and appear fresh, even the houses on the poor side of town from which ancient coats of basic white peeled like stripping sunburn.

I tooled along with my eyes squinted to keep out some of the summer light, eased by Gabby’s veterinarian office and tried not to rubberneck too much, and passed on. I finally drove up to the Camp Rapture Report, got out and stood by my aging car and looked around and hoped maybe this time things were going to go better.

Night before, I had driven over from Houston after leaving Hootie Hoot, Oklahoma, and my crazy Iraq war buddy, Booger, but only got as far as a bar, and later a motel on the outskirts of town, where I drank myself into a stupor in front of the TV set, watching who knows what. For all I cared it could have been a program on tractor repair or how to give yourself a lobotomy.

Next morning, I awoke feeling like something had died in my mouth and something else had crawled up my ass. I showered and brushed the dead thing out of my mouth and decided to live with whatever was up my ass, and drove to my scheduled interview for a possible position on the Camp Rapture Report.

Standing there beside my car, sweating from the late summer heat like a great ape in an argyle sweater, I took in a big breath of hot air. I checked to make sure my zipper was up, then examined the bottoms of my shoes for dog crap, just in case. I went along the sidewalk, strolled past the bee-laden, flowered shrubbery, the smell of which made my stomach roil, and went inside.

The Report looked pretty old-fashioned. Like a place where male reporters ought to wear fedoras with press cards in the hatbands and the female reporters ought to chew gum and talk snappy dialogue through bright red lipstick.

At the front desk I was greeted by a cute blond lady. She smiled and showed me some braces. I think she was in her mid-twenties, possibly even a little older, closer to my age, but the braces and the hairdo, which was too short and not evenly cut, along with a scattering of freckles that decorated her flushed cheeks, made her look like a spunky 1950s schoolkid as seen under a huge magnifying glass.

“Mr. Statler,” she said. “How are you?”

“You remember me?”

“We went to school together.”

“We did?”

“Belinda Hickam. I was a year under you. You were in the journalism club and you wrote for the high school paper. I think you wrote about chess.”

“Actually I only wrote one article about chess.”

“I guess that was the one I read. You’ve been hired to do a column, right?”

“I haven’t been hired yet.”

“Well, I’m going to be optimistic about it. Mrs. Timpson is waiting to see you.”

“Which way?” I said.

She pointed at a foyer where I could see a heap of stacked boxes, advised me to start in that direction and she would buzz Mrs. Timpson that I was on my way back.

“Any advice?” I asked.

“Keep your hands and feet on the visitor’s side of the desk, don’t make any sudden moves, and try not to make direct eye contact.”


I weaved around some stacked boxes and a couple of chairs and into the dark end of a foyer where there was light coming from behind a frosted glass door that had the moniker MRS. MARGOT TIMPSON, EDITOR, stenciled on it in black letters.

I tapped gently on the door and a voice that was well practiced at yelling asked me to come in.

Mrs. Timpson was sitting behind her desk and she had pushed back from it in her office chair and was studying me carefully. She had hair too red on the sides and too pink in the thin spots. Her face was eroded with deep canals over which a cheap powder had been caked, like sand over the Sphinx. Her breasts rested comfortably in her lap; they seemed to have recently died and she just hadn’t taken time to dispose of them. I took her age to be somewhere between eighty and around the time of the discovery of fire.

“Sit down,” she said, and her dentures moved when she spoke, as if they might be looking for an escape route.

I took the only chair and looked as intelligent as you might when you’re trying to shake Jim Beam and way too many cold beer chasers.

“You look like you’ve been drinking,” she said.

“Last night. A party.”

“I’ve heard you have a drinking problem.”

“Where would you hear that?”

“From the owner of Fat Billy’s Saloon. He’s my husband. You know, the little shithole just outside of town?”

“I was drinking, but I’m not a drunk.”

“I thought you said it was a party.”

“A party of one. It’s not a habit. I just tied one on a bit. You own a bar, so you know how it is. Now and then, you just drink more than you should.”

“The husband owns the bar,” she said, capturing her teeth with her upper lip as they moved a little too far forward. “He and I are separated. Have been for twenty years. We just never got around to divorcing. We get along all right, long as we don’t live together, or see each other that often, or communicate in any way. But he called and told me about you. He knew you, of course, knew you were trying to get on here at the paper. He said you mentioned it quite a few times between drinks.”

“Guess I was a little nervous.”

“He said you used to play football, quarterback for the Bulldogs. I looked you up. You lost most of your games, didn’t you?”

“But I threw some good passes. I think I have a high school record.”

“No. It got beat two years ago by the Johnson boy. What’s his name? Shit. Can’t think of it. But he beat you. Colored fella.”

I thought to myself: Colored? I hadn’t heard that used in many a moon.

“You were in the service?”

“Signed up for Afghanistan after the towers went down. I was there, but I ended up in Iraq. I kind of felt snookered on that end of the deal.”

“You’re not messed up in the head from being over there, are you?”

“No,” I said, “but the whole thing left me feeling like a cheap date that had been given cab fare and a slap on the ass on the way out the door.”

Timpson twisted her lips, and lined me up with a watery eyeball. “That was humor, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Just checking.” She swiveled her chair and looked at me from another angle. “I hire you, you don’t have to sit behind a desk all the time, but I like to think you’re working. That your time is my time, and my time is my own. You know this job doesn’t pay much?”

“It’s a start. I can work my way up.”

“Hell, you’re almost at the ceiling now, boy. Thing is, you come from skyscraper material. You had that job in Houston, a Pulitzer nomination. What was it, something about some murder?”

“That’s right. It was luck I was nominated.”

“I was thinking it might have been. Still, you didn’t last in Houston.”

“I came back here for a while, then joined the military.”

“Could there have been a reason you suddenly dropped that job in Houston? What was the problem there?”

“My boss and I didn’t get along.”

“Because you drank?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You know I can call him and ask.”

“You call him, I don’t know he’ll have much to say about the drinking, but whatever he says I doubt any of it will be good, even after several years. He doesn’t like me.”

“You can be straight with me. Nothing you say will embarrass or shock me.”

“I was banging his wife. And his stepdaughter. The daughter, by the way was thirty, the mother forty-eight.”

“No teenagers in the mix?”

“No, ma’am.”

“And I assume your indiscretions do not include the family dog.”

“No, ma’am. I believe you have to draw a line somewhere.”

“You think you’re quite the player, don’t you, boy?”

“I did then.”

Mrs. Timpson pursed her lips. “Go on out there and have Beverly, that’s the receptionist—”

“We met,” I said. “And I believe it’s Belinda.”

“Have her show you your desk. Working for a newspaper is like riding a bicycle or having sex, I suppose. Once you’ve done it, you should be able to do it again. But you can fall off a goddamn bicycle and you can fail to pull out in time when you’re doing the deed. So experience isn’t everything. Use a little common sense.”

“I will.”

“I hope so. Won’t be much in the way of Pulitzer Prize material to write about here, though. Last thing we had in the paper, outside of world news, that was anywhere near exciting was a rabid raccoon down at the Wal-Mart garden center last week. He chased a stock boy around and they had to shoot him.”

“The stock boy or the raccoon?”

“There’s that sense of humor again.”

“Yes, ma’am. And I promise, I’m all done now.”

“Good. I’m putting you on a column. That’s the job you wanted, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Maybe it was a skunk.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“The animal in Wal-Mart. Now that I think about it, it was a skunk, not a raccoon . . . Your column. It’s for the Sunday features. Most of the time you’ll be out of the office, but you got a desk. Still, you’ll report to me regularly. Get a taste today. Leave when you want to. Tomorrow morning, nine sharp, we’ll toss you into the fire.”

I got up and smiled and stuck out my hand to shake. She gave me a dismissive wave of the hand.

I started for the door.

“Varnell Johnson,” she said.

I turned. “Ma’am?”

“That was the colored boy’s name—one that broke your passing record. He could throw like a catapult and run like a goddamn deer.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Leather Maiden 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
KevinTipple More than 1 year ago
Cason Statler has returned home to find home, at least on the surface, is pretty much the same while he is not. The East Texas town of Camp Rapture is his last stop on what has been a downward spiral lately. Cynical, trying desperately not to drink himself to oblivion, the former Iraq veteran and Pulitzer nominee has come home in an attempt to get his life back together. Step one is to get hired at the local newspaper called the Camp Rapture Report. Step two is to deliver the column several times a week, stay sober (or as close to sober as possible) and maybe win the former girlfriend, Gabby, back once and for all. Step two has a lot riding on it on many levels and is much harder to accomplish. The plan gets off to a rocky start. He does get the job despite the rocky interview with the crusty editor, Mrs. Timpson. Of course, it didn't help that he had really tied one on the night before. Though with his personality and a penchant for pointing out flaws in others directly to them, the fact that he was massively hung over might have helped the interview a little. What is clear is that Gabby isn't remotely interested in getting back together. She wants absolutely no part of him. While Cason is convinced that he can ultimately get her back, his very successful brother Jimmy insists that she is done with him. Jimmy, the all so perfect brother, has always been a bit of soul crushing envy for Cason. These days, Jimmy is a successful professor at the local college, married with kids, and still thinks he is better than everyone else. That sibling rivalry takes a bizarre turn when Cason realizes his older brother was involved with the beautiful women that went missing months earlier. .. Beneath the tranquilly of East Texas, award winning author and Texan Joe R. Lansdale crafts a darkly disturbing tale of pure evil and racism. Racism is not an uncommon theme in Texas as recent news stories have illuminated for the rest of the nation. And while the racism depicted in this book has little originality from those news stories, the evil depicted here is abhorrently new. Evil that was grown, nurtured and flourished in beautiful and not so beautiful ways. And while Cason Statler does fit a stereotype initially, before long he and all the other players in this noir style novel become very real to the reader and easily slip the bounds of stereotypes. Nothing is as it seems for anyone in this book whether it be Cason, Jimmy (the perfect brother), Booger (the deranged veteran and Cason's friend), Gabby (the former love interest) or Caroline (the missing woman). It should be noted that the novel is frequently graphic in terms of language and descriptions of violence and the state of various bodies. Joe R. Lansdale is well known for using all types of language as well as populating his works with dark images and plenty of black humor. That certainly is in the case here in a powerful read that isn't over until the last word has been read. Kevin R. Tipple © 2009
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book and something I never thought I would catch myself reading. I loved it and from the minue I started reading it I was hooked. I would love to hear this on CD and would love to see this one on the big screen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reporter Cason Statler has been nominated for a Pulitzer so when he comes home to Camp Rapture, Texas to work for the local newspaper the Camp Rapture Report even he knows how far back he has fallen. The scandal he caused in Houston over boning his boss¿ late forties wife and thirty something daughter ended the Gulf War journalist¿s career. Mrs. Margot Timpson editor of the Report gives him a chance to redeem himself though she is unhappy that his best friend seems to be Jim Beam.----------- He decides to investigate the disappearance of twenty-three years old history major Caroline Allison who vanished six months ago while on a late night food run her car was found near the creepy Siegel place. As he makes inquiries Cason sees a connection with some more recent odd unsolved felonies that even bring his successful older brother the history professor who knew Caroline as a possible suspect in the student¿s disappearance.------- Few if any writers bring alive the essence of East Texas as well as Joe R, Lansdale consistently does through his usual endearing eccentric cast. His latest investigative tale stars a reporter who has fallen into disgrace rather quickly and remains in the doo-doo pond even as he struggles to right himself. With a strong support cast especially at the Report, plenty of weirdo humor and pulling no punches from the moment Cason explains his disgrace to Mrs. Timpson until the climax with Belinda the reporter at his side, fans will enjoy Mr. Lansdale¿s latest East Texas mystery. -------- Harriet Klausner
timdt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Well, another great read by Joe Lansdale. It doesn't really matter what genre he is writing, you will always get great, interesting characters and a plotline that steadily builds ever more violent, disturbing and laced with dark humor.
datrappert on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Leather Maiden is a ride through hell you won't soon forget, though perhaps you may want to. Its protagonist is an Iraq War veteran with a few issues, such as his inability to understand that his ex-girlfriend doesn't want to see him any more. This doesn't prevent him from moving back to his hometown and cruising by her veterinary office a few times each day.He takes a job for the town newspaper, because, before a little incident with a former boss's wife and stepdaughter, he was a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist in Houston. After that incident, I guess a few years in the Army seemed like a good idea. Rather than write columns on gardening, he decides to start investigating the unsolved disappearance of a beautiful college student named Caroline. And then a giant hand reaches up out of a sewer and pulls him down to hell!Well, not actually, but figuratively. Luckily, as his investigation reveals one awful thing after another, even involving his own family, his sociopathic war buddy, known as "Booger", shows up. This being a Lansdale novel, you know he didn't just come to sit on the couch and drink beer. The novel basically mutates into a Hap and Leonard story, minus the humor, and much more horrific. And it will definitely have you turning the pages, but Lansdale leaves credibility behind early in the story and just seems to be trying to achieve as much shock effect as he can. And he definitely succeeds in the gore and grue department. As a substitute for Hap and Leonard's humor, he instead has the protagonist and the older woman who runs the newspaper trade clever vulgarisms back and forth in lieu of actual speech. In fact, few people in this novel behave like real people--even real people in Texas.Lansdale is having a lot of fun, and you may have some fun yourself as one unbelievable chapter after another rolls past, but when I finished the book, I regretted that it lacked the depth of Lansdale's better work, such as Lost Echoes or The Bottoms. Slow down, Joe!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
If you live in East Texas you must read Mr. Lansdale's storys. I felt myself drifting down into it and I couldn't put it down. Mr. Lansdale, Thanks for sharing your talent. Can't wait to read your next one.