Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 18, 2011

Next week, Canadian book reviews, which will be gathered by Todd Mason. Other reviews are welcome too. Thanks and have a happy holiday.

Patti Abbott, Mucho Mojo, Joe R. Lansdale

Mucho Mojo is the second installment of the Hap and Leonard series by Joe R. Lansdale and a worthy follow-up to the first one. It concerns the disappearance of a number of 8-10 year old boys over a period of 10 years in a small town in Texas. It was very well done, of course, although I did find it improbable that such a long string of disappearances would get so little attention from the authorities given certain similarities. But all in all, I enjoyed this book immensely.

What I wanted to talk about here are the considerable strengths I found in this novel--almost amazing ones.

This is a novel by a white writer set entirely in the black community of a small town--and it never seems patronizing or inauthentic. Hap is virtually the only white character.

Secondly, Lansdale is able to write, almost obsessively, about sex without it seeming prurient or pornographic. His sex is tender and graceful.

Third-he is able to create believable characters with a few strokes of his keyboard. Truly, he can find a feature or embellishment to give them something to make them stand out.

Fourth-he can insert humor gracefully at even the darkest moments.

Fifth- he can use profanity without seeming crass.

What a writer. I am in awe.

Ed Gorman is the author of BAD MOON RISING and STRANGLEHOLD. You can find him here.

I always thought that Arthur Conan Doyle was a pretty cool guy. When I was young, I was all caught up in the almost otherworldly portrait he gave us of Victorian London and environs: the fog, the hansom cabs, the echoing footsteps down the dark alleys, the pitiful ones of Whitechapel, the self-indulgent ones of the aristocracy. And then when I got older and had more appreciation of what it was like for a father to lose a son, the way Doyle turned to mentalism of various sorts…

The one aspect of the Doyle story I’d never paid much attention to was his very real interest in true-crime cases. As Erle Stanley Gardner would do several decades later, Doyle helped clear innocents and thus helped them escape the gallows. And he worked with police from a variety of cities, towns and even other countries when they asked his opinion or advice on matters concerning open cases.

All this is documented in a fine new book CONAN DOYLE, DETECTIVE: THE TRUE CRIMES INVESTIGATED BY THE CREATOR OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Peter Costello that moves as swiftly as a Doyle story while offering us a look at a Doyle most of us have ever encountered, even in some of the better Doyle biographies.

There are chapters on six of the UK’s most famous cases, including Crippen, Jack the Ripper and the Irish Crown Jewels. Even when Doyle was wrong in his conjectures, his process of deduction is fascinating to follow. Likewise, even in cases of lesser fame, Costello sets all the crimes in a context that helps give us a vivid sense of the era.

A real treat for several audiences: those who love Holmes, those fascinated with Doyle himself, those interested in the formation of modern crime-solving techniques and those (and there seem to be many) who wished they’d lived in the time of Queen Victoria.

Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Cullen Gallagher
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Doug Levin
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Richard Pangburn
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang
James Winter
John W


Todd Mason said...

Another way that it's tough to beat Lansdale is in making some of the most outlandish of the fantasticated incidents (or, in his crime and some of his western fiction, outlandish but quite possible incidents) grounded and immediate, believable in context. No mean feat. Part of what, of course, made his such an idol to the self-conscious splatterpunks whom he never enjoyed being tagged with, that verisimilitude (combined with the imagination and grace that a David Schow was always shooting for and an Ed Lee can only dream of).

I had to explain to smug fellow Bordron, who had only a bit more Spanish than I, that it was "mucho mo-joe" and nothing to do with anyone getting wet. Well, that title didn't, anyway.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

FFB Review--THE FIVE SILVER BUDDHAS (1935) by Harry Stephen Keeler--Reviewed by Barry Ergang.


Paul D Brazill said...

Love Hap & Leonard.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Patti, you did a good job capturing Joe Lansdale's strengths. Nice work.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Jeff. He really does take you right into their world. Hard to let go of it.

J F Norris said...

Lansdale is one of the few straight writers I have read who created a fully developed gay character who is a human being and not a gay stereotype. Bravo!

Love his short stories even more than this series which is perfect for all the reasons you outline and more. His award winning THE BOTTOMS was a powerful book, too. Probably my favorite of his novels.

Yvette said...

"...self conscious splatterpunks..." I like that, Todd. :)

I've never read Joe Lansdale. Adding him to my list. Don't know whether to thank you or not, Patti. :)


Yvette said...

The Conan Doyle book sounds intriguing as well. I am a major Holmes-aholic.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If you are going to read just one Lansale, read THE BOTTOMS. Love it.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks for these links and your own terrific review. I promise to read The Bottoms, too :-). And thanks for including my post.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree on THE BOTTOMS. Also "Bubba Ho-Tep" (as well as the movie version, of course). It's available in his BUMPER CROP collection.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Missed Ron:

James Reasoner said...

Here's the thing about Joe: he talks even better than he writes. Absolutely the best in-person storyteller I've ever known.

Anonymous said...

James is right. I still remember discussing the classic HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP with him at a Bouchercon some years back.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Guess I will never meet him. Or you!