As I sit here trying to come up with something witty and entertaining for my latest book review – sorry folks, nothing’s coming to me – I’m also plagued by everything else I should be doing instead sitting here not being able to write what will in all likelihood be a sub-par review. I should be finishing Rage by Stephen King, but it’s definitely one of his early efforts. I should be sleeping, as it’s after midnight and I’m less than one paragraph in. I should not be thinking about superhero films, but the new Captain America comes out
tomorrow today. Now I don’t particularly care about Captain America, as far as superheroes go he’s both boring and overt. However, it’s a good time to be based on a comic. Seemingly every superhero is getting a film, all of which acknowledge and exacerbate how dark society has become. I’d like to think the reason I’m discussing yet another superhero film is that Joe R. Lansdale’s Leather Maiden has the feel of one, albeit one with an antihero. It’s gritty, appalling, and has an ending that would please even Superman.
Instead of the big city, you have the small town of Camp Rapture. Despite the small town idyll, there is a seedy underbelly to the east Texas town – tension, blackmail, infidelity, murder, if it’s bad, it’s happening here. Instead of a nearly unbeatable, yet still gets routinely cornered hero, you have Cason Statler, a journalist. He was a successful big city reporter, until he got caught sleeping with his boss’s wife AND daughter. He was nominated for a Pulitzer, but lost. Now he’s recently returned from Afghanistan and he’s as comfortable at the bottom of a bottle of Wild Turkey as an 80 year old at bingo. He’s also stalking his ex-girlfriend. Cason is not a good guy, but he’s not wholly bad either, he’s just perpetually in progress. He’s in over his head too, as he does manage to get a job at the local paper and the first story that pops up manages to pull him into the fiendish world of murder by skinning and a Texas wide, truly diabolical crime ring. The first sign he’s headed down a wrong way street? The DVD he mysteriously receives starring his married brother with a woman who is not his wife (and is no longer living) – in adult situations. It’s like a downsized, redneck, country-fried version of Gotham – only funnier – and starring The Punisher.
Leather Maiden is disturbing. It walks that fine line of black comedy and grotesquerie that only Lansdale has mastered. It will make you cringe if you have a conscience. It’ll give you a better understanding of the creative uses of foul language and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas tourism board wishes Lansdale would stop writing. And while I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes experience lapses in taste and judgment (perhaps you could be thinking that this explains my dislike of Captain America or, in turn, my appreciation for Daredevil), I’m fairly certain you can’t go wrong picking up a Lansdale novel – and I make that statement with no conclusive proof whatsoever. What the novel lacks in serious character development (the good are good and the bad are bad), it makes up for in pacing, plot line, dialogue, and the charmingly sociopathic Booger. It’s not perfect, the ending requires you to suspend your disbelief (as does anything reminiscent of the comic world), but it’s worth a read. If you haven’t read any Lansdale, this is a good introduction. It’s solidly entertaining and it has his trademark sense of bitter black humor. And I promise you it’s better than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 4/5, good for anyone who doesn’t mind reading about the various conditions of corpses and enjoys engaging in cover snobbery (because this is a good one).
Pair this one with Snickers Pie (recipe from RecipeGirl). It’ll probably take a year off your life, but it might be worth it.