Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hell's Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale

Hell's BountyHell's Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hell's Bounty is a riotous and sometimes tortuous weird west horror gambol by the brothers Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale.

We start with shadows and wingy things at the belfry, and a wooden box containing red lights burning hieroglyphic-like inscriptions.

Quill has put many a man in Boot Hill cemetery, and as it happens a solitary woman, he's our bad guy but he's not your average bad guy. He's possessed by something particularly nasty that wants to end the world as we know it.

'He hadn’t liked her singing, caterwauling was more like it. She had sounded like a cat with a stick up its ass. Even the horny miners and cowboys in the saloon applauded when she hit the floor. She was not only a terrible singer, she’d had a face that could drop a raccoon out of a tree at twenty paces.'

Our bad guy come good guy is short fused bounty hunter Smith, he rolls into Falling Rock and sets off an explosive chain of events courtesy of the stick of dynamite he carries in his belt.

What's the single most important, no hang on, vital consideration when throwing a stick of dynamite with the intention of blowing the bollocks out of something? Well, if it's got a short fuse, then throw that fucker quick. Unfortunately Smith doesn't heed that advice and his next port of call is a wheelbarrow of body bits in the bar of Hell's waiting room.

Smith's not done, in fact he's regurgitated and immediately needed back up on the ground floor by Satan himself, the bartender from hell, the dead are rising at that behest of something old and evil, and Smith is the chosen one to save the day.

I enjoyed the first part of Hell's Bounty, there was plenty of humour amidst the saloon patrons with some great characters like Payday and Double Shot as the story unfolded. The final battle sees the return of legends such as Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok and Quantrail to assist with the horde of the dead but I lost interest as the story gradually descended into an all-out action zombie killfest storyline. Silver disintegrates these dead folks and there seemed to be shed loads of it about, more common than dirt. All told started off good fun but ended up a touch repetitive with nothing that stood out.

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After The Fog Clears by Lee Thompson

After The Fog ClearsAfter The Fog Clears by Lee Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'You have to do what is uncomfortable to go anywhere worthwhile…'

After the Fog Clears is a harrowing tale of loss, betrayal and destructive madness all packed tightly into an emotional kaleidoscope.

After receiving a frightening call from his Nan, Luther Anderson rushes home through the deep fog and early morning stillness, speeding, his blood screaming he narrowly avoids a young child unwittingly playing at the roadside. Not quite as lucky is the Saginaw police officer Nathan Hazzard chasing Luther, he loved the chase but the fog was dense and he didn't see the child until it was too late.

'Listen to the squawk of a radio so you don’t have to hear the unrestrained volume of a torn-apart heart. Close your eyes so you can’t see a stricken mother outliving her little one; a woman who wishes she could follow him, to protect him, to never fail him again. Whisper to yourself, and to her, and to the thing she holds: Eventually the fog will burn away…'

This single act, the death of a child, sets off a devastating chain of events for all concerned, the cracks and obstacles blighting the paths of these characters are ruinously explored amidst deceit, disloyalty and ultimately, death.

Lee Thompson is adept at portraying flawed characters and their destructive actions, this story is certainly shrouded in darkness. It's difficult to see any goodness for the main part and there's no light at the end of this tunnel. The ending could have been handled differently in my opinion, for the half dozen characters this story revolves around to all come together in the same place was way too convenient. It didn't however ruin my overall enjoyment of the fluid writing and desperate characters.

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Boy's Life

Boy's LifeBoy's Life by Robert McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While riding with his father on the milk route, Cory Mackenson witnesses a car plunging into a bottomless lake with a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel. Will they figure out who the man was before the memory destroys them?

Yeah, that's not a great teaser for this. How do you summarize a couple years in the life of a young boy?

I tried hard not to like this book. For the first quarter of it, it wasn't hard. Boy's Life feels overwritten for what it is and Robert McCammon was trying so hard to write like Stephen King that you could taste it. I thought about tossing it back on the to-read mountain. Then it grabbed me. I wolfed it down in less than 24 hours.

While it has some crime and horror elements, Boy's Life is a coming of age tale more than anything else. It reminded me of Stephen King's The Body (aka Stand by Me) at first, but it's a lot more than that.

Cory is eleven when the story begins, growing up in a small Alabama town called Zephyr. While the mysterious dead man in Saxon Lake kicks off the tale, it's really about Cory getting older and world-weary in Zephyr. Since the story takes place in the early 1960's, the civil rights movement and Vietnam are lurking in the background, as are the rise of corporations.

Cory's adventures with his pals were a lot of fun but also harrowing at times. I loved the beast from the lost word and Nemo Curliss. For a twelve year old, Cory was sure in the middle of a lot of weirdness, though. The bit with Rebel added this book to my man-tears shelf. Was Vernon Thaxter a stand-in for McCammon himself?

I thought about giving this a five but couldn't. While I enjoyed the book immensely, I felt like parts of it were cobbled together from various Stephen King tales, like The Body, Christine, Pet Semetery, and others. Also, it seemed excessively wordy for what it was at times, like I mentioned at the beginning.

All things considered, Boy's Life was a great read. Four out of five stars.

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