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Joe R. Lansdale ‘Hot in December’ Review


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!

Stay tuned to Dark Regions for the chance to grab this one!

Rating: 5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

6 Comments on Joe R. Lansdale ‘Hot in December’ Review

  1. Vitina molgaard // December 1, 2013 at 8:56 am // Reply

    I have to agree that if Mr. Lansdale can do one thing really great it is write, and not get stuck…he is always good for a well written tale. and his variety is fantastic…looking forward to this one…just me


  2. Wayne C. Rogers // December 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm // Reply

    Matt, this is a fantastic review. Also, Hot in December is apparently a novella by the great Joe Lansdale that I missed. How did you find this? Was it in an anthology or put up as a Kindle book on Amazon? I’ve got to find this sucker and read it


  3. A quick search on the UK Kindle store shows nothing. Joe never gets any love from the UK book stores – why is that??


    • Hi Dave, it’s the same deal on Amazon in the U.S. my friend. Paperback only at the moment. I’m sure HNR will give you a heads-up when the publisher Dark Regions Press goes the Kindle route with this one.


  4. I met Joe a very long time ago at a writing competition in Beaumont, TX. Besides being one of the best writers to ever sling ink, he is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.


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