Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (February 2016)
190 pages; $40 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
I don’t know how the Lansdale brothers divvied up the writing duties on Hell’s Bounty, and, truth be told, it doesn’t matter. Storytelling runs deep in the Lansdale family, and Joe and John’s new novel is a seamless powder keg of a collaboration, packed tight with wild, weird western fun.
Something has emerged from an old mine shaft near the town of Falling Rock. Moving about as it does on bat wings, leaving a whiff of sulfur in its wake, chances are it’s nothing good. Typical for Falling Rock, which seems to attract bad things – and bad people. Take Trumbo Quill for example, a man bad enough to shoot another man dead just for accidentally sitting on his hat. Or Smith, a newly-arrived bounty hunter whose explosive confrontation with Quill lands him, literally, in Hell.
Hell, it seems, can use a man like Smith, who quickly strikes a bargain that sends him back to Falling Rock, where a year has passed and things have gotten a whole lot worse. Quill – or the thing that used to be Quill – has become a threat to Hell itself, and has amassed an army of ghouls to back up his efforts. Smith joins up with a ragged group of survivors for one last stand against Quill, a last-ditch effort to save this plane of existence – and maybe his own soul.
Hell’s Bounty blends familiar western, supernatural and Lovecraftian elements to produce a terrifically fun pulp novel. The pedal hits the floor on page one and never lets up, mixing big action sequences, a couple of buckets full of gore, and that trademark Lansdale humor for something unique and comfortable and difficult to put down. Highly recommended.