Written by: Matt Molgaard
Joe Lansdale will always be a unique character due to his wild versatility. You can read 10 of the man’s stories and swear 10 different authors wrote them, though you’ll likely love every last one. Hot in December is far more in line with a Hap Collins and Leonard Pine effort than a Drive-In installment, and while yes, that’s an indicator that this particular piece isn’t outrageously bleak or outright horror, it’s no indicator of poor quality, at all. Joe can write. He can write his ass off.
The story focuses on Tom Chan and a few old war buddies who reunite after Tom witnesses a hit and run murder, executed by a local criminal of high order. The man is near untouchable, so he thinks, but Tom’s decision to go to the police and not only report, but agree to testify to what he saw, triggers some aggression from the lawless bastard and his nasty group of goons. How do you fight fire? With fire, of course. Hot in December quickly becomes an intricate and fatal game of cat and mouse, the only question is: who’s more resourceful? Tom Chan’s got some powerful buddies, and whether he can escape this situation with his life or not, he’s game to turn it into a real dog fight.
Stellar character development, riveting twists and a disregard for any all and all stereotypical rules, Hot in December is one of 2013’s true treasures. As a longtime fan of Lansdale’s work, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed in the concept of the novella. In fact, if I had anything to complain about, it’d be the fact that the story is too short. The final page turned, but I wasn’t quite ready to detach myself from the story. It’s completely engaging, and just about guaranteed to be obliterated in a single sitting. It’s not easy to walk away from a wonderfully assembled tale, and that’s what Joe has given us here.
If you love horror, and you love mystery, you’ll love this piece. Furthermore, if you’re a fan of the late, great, John D. MacDonald’s work, prepare for an uncanny piece that echoes elements of the remarkable Travis McGee series as well as one of the finest suspense novels ever written, The Executioners. Hot in December differs significantly from the aforementioned works, but there’s an interesting sense of nostalgia that swarms as soon as you pick this one up, and I don’t necessarily believe that’s completely incidental. In my opinion, this one plays out as a highly respectable tribute to one of history’s strongest authors.
Kudos, Mr. Lansdale. You’ve done it, yet again. I’m inclined to believe that if MacDonald were alive today, he’d dig the hell out of this book!