Life for Ed Edwards is fairly dull. He sells used cars, has a drunk for a mother, a sister who is smart but stuck in a nowhere life because of a lack of funds, very few friends to speak of, and he’s haunted by his Korean war past. Oh, and he’s part black, but passes as white, so there’s a little something that also flaps around at the edges of his conscience. One day his boss sends him out to repossess a really nice Cadillac the lot sold to a young, married couple. What Ed finds is an even nicer lady attached to that Caddy named Nancy, who happens to be married to an alcoholic, abusive man. They run a drive-in theater, own a pet cemetery, and Nancy’s husband is often on the road selling encyclopedias. This story being a noir, Ed soon finds himself in bed with Nancy in more ways than one. He falls in love with the sex and then in love with the girl and pretty soon, he’s descended into a darkness hotter and nastier than a skunk’s unwiped ass. Before it’s said and done, Ed is part of things he never could have imagined himself doing, and it seems the only way out is to plow forward, digging a deeper grave for himself and Nancy.
Joe R. Lansdale is a great writer who writes stories that feel more like oral folk tales than actual words written down on the page. His tales come alive, full of humor, hope, sadness, romance, and plenty of action. Did I mention humor? Even in the darkest moments, there’s always a flicker of laughs. And this is one dark book. Calling this an East Texas Noir would be like calling Donald Trump orange. Lansdale sucks you in, providing a main character and narrator that, while not perfect and not without flaws, is certainly likable enough, especially when it comes to Ed and his interactions with his younger sister. There is a live-in quality to these moments; they are family that have been through rough times, and although they don’t see each other much, they truly care for one another. Ed does is best by her, and in the end it’s his only real redeeming quality. He hides from who he is for most of the book, playing the white card and hoping nobody finds out. And while that might be the smart thing to do in the 1960’s, you can see it taking out little pieces of his soul. Ed’s interactions with Nancy are believable and his fateful decisions are understandable. The thing is, you don’t want to see him do it. At one point, I was cringing so badly at what was happening, I almost put the book down. That’s the sign of a great writer, and a great story, and oh yeah, a great character.
More Better Deals is a dark, dark book. Lansdale drags you down into the shallow grave of a story and smothers you slowly, but you go there willingly. If you want a fantastic read, look no further. If you want sunshine and rainbow farts, you might want to move along. This one crackles, is hard to put down, and as the momentum builds towards its ultimate noir conclusion, you’ll find yourself white-knuckling the last seventy pages or so.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews. He likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.comor on Amazon