Cason Statler has returned home to find home, at least on the surface, is pretty much the same while he is not. The East Texas town of Camp Rapture is his last stop on what has been a downward spiral lately. Cynical, trying desperately not to drink himself to oblivion, the former Iraq veteran and Pulitzer nominee has come home in an attempt to get his life back together. Step one is to get hired at the local newspaper called the Camp Rapture Report.
Step two is to deliver the column several times a week, stay sober (or as close to sober as possible) and maybe win the former girlfriend, Gabby, back once and for all. Step two has a lot riding on it on many levels and is much harder to accomplish.
The plan gets off to a rocky start. He does get the job despite the rocky interview with the crusty editor, Mrs. Timpson. Of course, it didn’t help that he had really tied one on the night before. Though with his personality and a penchant for pointing out flaws in others directly to them, the fact that he was massively hung over might have helped the interview a little.
What is clear is that Gabby isn’t remotely interested in getting back together. She wants absolutely no part of him. While Cason is convinced that he can ultimately get her back, his very successful brother Jimmy insists that she is done with him. Jimmy, the all so perfect brother, has always been a bit of soul crushing envy for Cason. These days, Jimmy is a successful professor at the local college, married with kids, and still thinks he is better than everyone else. That sibling rivalry takes a bizarre turn when Cason realizes his older brother was involved with the beautiful women that went missing months earlier. ..
Beneath the tranquilly of East Texas, award winning author and Texan Joe R. Lansdale crafts a darkly disturbing tale of pure evil and racism. Racism is not an uncommon theme in Texas as recent news stories have illuminated for the rest of the nation. And while the racism depicted in this book has little originality from those news stories, the evil depicted here is abhorrently new. Evil that was grown, nurtured and flourished in beautiful and not so beautiful ways. And while Cason Statler does fit a stereotype initially, before long he and all the other players in this noir style novel become very real to the reader and easily slip the bounds of stereotypes. Nothing is as it seems for anyone in this book whether it be Cason, Jimmy (the perfect brother), Booger (the deranged veteran and Cason’s friend), Gabby (the former love interest) or Caroline (the missing woman).
It should be noted that the novel is frequently graphic in terms of language and descriptions of violence and the state of various bodies. Joe R. Lansdale is well known for using all types of language as well as populating his works with dark images and plenty of black humor. That certainly is in the case here in a powerful read that isn’t over until the last word has been read.
Leather Maiden: A Novel
Joe R. Lansdale
Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
This material was received from the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2009