(1999) Joe R. Lansdale, Indigo, £6.99, pbk, 245pp, ISBN 0-575-40252-0
Bill Roberts' mother is dead and kind of freeze-dried in her bedroom. This keeps her welfare cheques coming, but Bill doesn't feel confident enough to try to forge her signature. So he tries robbing a roadside firecracker stand instead but, of course, even that goes horribly wrong and before he knows it he's on the run from the law. A travelling freak show seems as good a place to hide as any... But before long Bill finds himself manipulated by the trailer-trash blond, Gidget who has a plan to kill the show's owner, Frost, and steal the main attraction, a frozen caveman.
Though the writing is solid, well observed, and frequently hilarious, I have to say that this is not one of Lansdale's best. Upon reading you cannot shake the conviction that this is really a short story that got out of hand and swallowed a few steroids. Don't get me wrong - Lansdale on a bad day can still out-write 99% of his peers - it's just that this all seems a bit flimsy for a novel. You never quite end up rooting for Bill or, indeed, for any of the characters, so you never really care about the outcome and, when it does come, it seems perfunctory, as though Lansdale himself got bored of the whole thing. Disappointing, but with more than a few flashes of great perverse humour, this is probably only for the Lansdale completist - I'd recommend the general reader try instead any of the Hap Collins and Leonard Pine novels.
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