cover image Bad Chili

Bad Chili

Joe R. Lansdale. Mysterious Press, $21.5 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-619-6

The opening attack of a rabid squirrel leaves Hap Collins, returning from Mucho Mojo and Two-Bear Mambo, with a prescription for a series of shots. Luckily, Nurse Brett is a doll, albeit somewhat foul-mouthed. Hap and his tough, gay, black sidekick Leonard Pine drive another brutally funny R-rated crime caper in picturesque East Texas. Leonard's lover, Raul, has left him for a biker called Horse Dick, whose subsequent death by shotgun is attributed to Leonard. Another death and the news that Horse Dick had a hidden identity revs up Hap's investigation. The trail he and Leonard follow leads to one weird scheme to sell restaurant grease on the black market and another one involving videos of young gay men being realistically beaten up. The cast of likely criminals includes a chili magnate; a former professional wrestler who enjoys applying electricity to tender male body parts, including Hap's; a hairdresser with a suspicious French accent; and the unforgettable Jim Bob Luke, a rough-edged PI who makes Leonard look like a sissy. Brett is probably overwritten some, and her supposed demise isn't slightly believable, but the rest of the narrative, including a breathless finale, is droll, crude, touching and very nasty. Lansdale elicits at least one good chuckle per page, and there may be no living author who commands more vernacular terms for the myriad sexual acts available to consenting and non-consenting adults. In this author's hands, extravagant, lovable characters mix with outrageous, despicable actions to irresistible effect. Major ad/promo.(Sept.)