Cold In July

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

Cold in July is the story of Richard Dane, a small town guy in East Texas whose mundane life is drastically changed  when a late-night home invasion results in a dead intruder splattered all over his living room. It's about the regret Richard Dane feels for doing what he had to do to protect his family.

It is also the story of Ben Russel, recently released from Huntsville prison, who hasn't seen his son in 20-years or so... the son who is now splattered all over Richard Dane's living room. And  Russel's need for revenge, a revenge he hopes will alleviate his own life regrets.

And then there is larger-than-life P.I. Jim Bob Luke who blows into this story like a Texas tornado with no apologies and damn few regrets. Part good ol' boy, part sly fox, and all Texas swagger Jim Bob is going to get things done or die trying.

I owe Joe R. Lansdale an apology. Early on when the story got to a certain point I thought, "Oh, this is going to be a take-off on the film Cape Fear (based on the book The Executioners by John D. MacDonald)." Yeah... No. Not at all. Joe Lansdale is better than that and I should have known it.

I hesitate to say much more for fear of spoilers. Cold in July is a good read

It took me a few chapters to really start getting into it. Once I did there were still one or two spots in the middle and towards the end where things slowed down too much for my taste but it may very well have been a case of runaway anticipation on my part... I wanted to see how it all came together in the end.

Joe R. Lansdale has such a gift for capturing the essence of these people. He knows them inside and out. It would not be an exaggeration to place his name alongside the likes of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, or Ross Macdonald when it comes to crafting dialogue and the use of location as a supporting character. This story happens anywhere else, it's an altogether different story. It's got to be East Texas, and it's got to be told by Lansdale.

Cold in July was originally published in the late '80s, they made a movie in 2014, and are now releasing the book with a forward by the film's director Jim Mickle and an afterward by author Joe R. Lansdale.

*This book may not be appropriate for more sensitive readers. There is coarse language (including a few racial slurs), adult situations, and some violence that might be considered graphic.

***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
First published in 1989; movie tie-in published by Tachyon in 2014; published digitally by Particle Books on July 10, 2018

Joe Lansdale often writes novels and stories that are funny and playful, even if the comedy is dark. When Lansdale decides to write a dark novel that isn’t meant as a comedy, few writers are better at pushing the reader’s buttons of dread. I admire Lansdale’s versatility, but I like him best when he shakes my ability to face the hidden horrors of humanity. At the same time, there are few writers who are more humane than Lansdale, who are better able to look into the frigid darkness and find an ember of hope that deserves to be nurtured.

Richard Dane kills a burglar, quite legitimately, in self-defense. The encounter triggers thoughts of mortality, his and his son’s, who might easily have been shot by the burglar if he had wandered into the living room.

Dane lives in a small Texas town. Local jerks congratulate him for “getting one.” The decent people appreciate that he is going through a rough time because killing, in self-defense or otherwise, should never be a source of pride.

Dane feels compelled to attend the burglar’s burial, despite being warned by the police that the burglar’s father had just been released from prison and might be in the mood for vengeance. The father, Russel, makes a not-so-veiled threat against Dane’s own four-year-old son. The story’s tension builds from that point, as Richard puts bars on his windows and begins to realize that the facts are not what they appeared to be and that threats may be approaching him from unexpected directions.

A colorful and profane private detective named Jim Bob Luke enters the mix, hired by Dane to get to the bottom of an apparent conspiracy, but true to the novel’s tone, a vague sense of menace surrounds the man. Eventually Jim Bob and Russel and Dane chase a mystery, only to make a horrifying discovery.

Cold in July is the kind of story that confronts relatively good people with hard moral choices. The story eventually gives Dane the opportunity to act as a vigilante in what seems to him (and possibly the reader) to be a just cause. Typical vigilante fiction features a resolute and self-righteous protagonist with military training and lots of guns who makes the world a better place by cleaning up the polluting people he defines as scum. Dane is just an ordinary guy. He doesn’t see himself killing anyone. Whether he will or won’t take on the vigilante role and what effect that choice will have on him is the question than builds suspense in the novel’s second half. Readers can debate whether Dane makes the right choice, which is part of the reason to read a book like Cold in July. Lansdale makes clear that there really is no choice that can clearly be viewed as morally correct.  Whatever Dane does will lead to harm, and any choice he makes will leave a permanent scar on his soul.

Lansdale always tells a good story and he doesn’t waste words doing it. His characters are as real as they need to be. Readers understand a character's essential characteristics without wading through every detail of their formative years. Lansdale avoids making the villains stereotypes by largely ignoring them. We know what they did, but we don’t know them as people. Nor do we need to know them. The focus instead is on the good guys, who are flawed but far from evil, making it easy for the reader to hope for the best when the shooting starts.

Cold in July builds suspense until the story reaches its bloody climax. It isn’t possible to close one’s eyes when reading a book, but readers might find themselves holding their breath. I don’t know if the movie adaptation is any good (Roger Ebert didn’t think so), but Cold in July played as a thumbs up movie in my mind.

RECOMMENDED
Was this review helpful?
“Cold in July” by Joe R. Lansdale was first published in 1989, and it is remains outstanding in this rerelease. Lansdale is a master storyteller who blends tales across several genres. 
“Cold in July” is a psychological thriller featuring an ordinary man and a crime that disrupts his entire life. Of course, things are not what they seem, and he is drawn into a dangerous quest with two others. He becomes obsesses with resolving the mystery while protecting his home and his family. 
“Cold in July” is dark and suspenseful with complex, well developed, colorful, but flawed characters, Be mindful that Lansdale's humor and earthy hilarious dialogue are not necessarily for everyone, but  this is a fast and thrilling read. 
 I received a reissue copy of “Cold in July” from Joe R. Lansdale, Tachyon Publications, and NetGalley. It is as entertaining today as it was almost three decades ago. That speaks volumes. It will be a great movie, but the book will always be better.
Was this review helpful?
“Killing a man had not altered my appearance in the least.” states Richard Dane, part-time killer and full-time father in Cold in July.

Richard kills an intruder in his home in self-defense. When the victim’s father, Russel, comes for revenge, a strange friendship develops. It appears the police might have misidentified the intruder—possibly on purpose. Once Dane hires a private detective, Jim Bob, with a personality as big as the Texas setting, the twists just keep coming in this western noir.

Great characters set this novel apart. The plot is twisty. There are a few instances of the n-word, though used to prove someone is an ignorant redneck, it still might bother some readers. Also, swear words are frequent. However, the characters and the setting are great. Cold in July is perfect for fans of A Simple Plan or Fargo, where ordinary people get caught up in extraordinary situations. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Pinnacle Books, and NetGalley for a copy.
Was this review helpful?
It's July, but it's anything but cold here in New England. In fact, we're smack in the middle of a nasty heat wave, so it was a great time to park myself by the pool and read. COLD IN JULY was perfect for the occasion. 

Hearing a noise during the night and grabbing his gun to go investigate, Richard Dane ends up killing an intruder in his living room. Understandably he's rattled and feeling a bit guilty. As such, he decides to attend the funeral of his victim and winds up meeting the dead man's father, Ben Russell. Russell is upset and seeking revenge. If this were any other author, the reader would be safe in assuming that the rest of the tale was going to be about Russel and Richard coming to terms. But we're talking Joe Lansdale here, and this story turns in a completely different direction.What happens next? You'll have to read this to find out!

I loved the characters in this book, most especially Jim Bob, a redneck expert in the martial arts, who drives a cherry red boat of a Cadillac, and is a private investigator. His down-home sayings were hilarious and it provided that twisted humor Lansdale is known for. I also loved how the story changed throughout and how the characters developed.

I'm not sure why this book was available through NetGalley at this time, since it originally came out in 1989, but I hopped on the chance to read it for free. There is also a film of it, starring Don Johnson as Jim Bob, and I believe that is something I MUST see. 

COLD IN JULY is a fast paced crime novel, with humor and horror mixed in as well as a well developed sense of honor. Set in LaBorde, a place Hap and Leonard fans will recognize, this is a Texas story, told by a Texan in the most entertaining way possible. I highly recommend it! 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*
Was this review helpful?
Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale- A revenge thriller with a twist, as usual with Joe R. Lansdale.  Richard Dane kills a man, who has entered his house uninvited and with criminal intent. The cops come, and that should be the end of it.  But the patriarch of the dead man's family, a man with a criminal history as well, doesn't think so.  He decides to go after Dane and everything he holds dear.  Of course, it is never as simple as that.  These two men begin to move towards confrontation when something unexpected happens.  Lansdale rips the veneer off this locale, exposing the dirt and the corruption everywhere.  No fun and games like Hap and Leonard here, but a good solid read none the less.
Was this review helpful?
Had a very difficult time getting through this book and decided to abandon the task at the halfway mark. I was put off by the graphic nature of some scenes, which normally doesn't bother me but it felt like it lacked a purpose in this context except to be shocking. The writing was juvenile and needed another editing in my opinion as some phrases were drawn out, bulky, and lengthened passages that could have easily been shortened by cutting out to be verbs. 

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Metamorphosis is a term used to describe the process whereby a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.  It is also a term for what Lansdale does with Cold in July, a novel that starts out in a suburban father's worst nightmare.  Woken in the dead of night by an intruder, he shoots the intruder right through the eye.  Shock and guilt give way to fear as the burglar's father vows revenge upon being released from prison.  Then the story flips as Rick busts the ex-con father out of jail, and they join forces with a crazy Texas private eye, eventually turning into an action packed men's adventure tale.  Along the way, Lansdale touches on many themes such as how safe are we really against the real predators, and what kind of secrets is the government hiding.  And, what makes us who we are?  Is it our actions in those brief moments of madness or how we go about our daily lives?  And, then there's that desperate longing for adventure that lies buried within us.  I've never read much Lansdale before, but he makes this crazy story work with the keen thoughtful narrator's voice.
Was this review helpful?
A very quick read. The books open with the protagonist shooting an intruder in his home. The father of the intruder comes to exact his revenge. After an unsuccessful attempt, those two form an alliance to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the story. I don't want to give away any spoilers but you will finish the book quick enough. A different twist to a story I have seen before. 
Thank you Tachyon Publications, Particle Books and Netgalley for an ARC for my review.
Was this review helpful?
This is the first book I've read by this author. It was okay - I can't say that I felt completely connected to the characters or the story. I finished the book over the weekend, and can honestly say, that I haven't given it much thought since I finished. It just wasn't a story that has stayed with me. 

Thank you #netgalley and #tachyon for the eARC.
Was this review helpful?
COLD IN JULY by Joe R. Lansdale is a story that was made into a movie of the same title, which was directed by Jim Mickle, who writes the introduction to this edition released with an afterword by the author.

Richard Dane is awakened by his wife Ann when she hears something in the night, and after listening he hears the glass sliding door being opened at the rear of their home, so he grabs the .38 snubnose and cartridges he keeps in a shoe box in the closet to investigate, and comes face to face with a burglar who fires a gun at him and misses, then Rich returns fire killing the burglar.

Swiftly released after a brief police investigation takes place, he is warned the the burglar’s father has just been released from a 20 year prison stretch, and to be aware of the possible threat to him and his family.

Ben Russel, father of Frankie the late burglar, threatens Rich when he sees him at the gravesite when he goes to the burial; something Rich was advised not to do by detective Price, who investigated the burglary/shooting.

Several twists and turns take place along the way, and while I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie yet, fans of the ‘Hap and Leonard’ books by author Lansdale will be pleased to experience a full dose of Jim Bob Luke, the rough-around-the-edges (and all points in between) detective from the “Bad Chili” and “Captains Outrageous” novels.

I read this novel in one sitting, and was easily able to see why director Mickle was so committed to making the story into a full length movie, as it seemed a good fit - much in the same way that author Scott B. Smith’s “A Simple Plan” impressed me before seeing the movie.

Also, taking place in LaBorde, East Texas, of all places (again familiar to Hap and Leonard fans), gives it that Texas atmosphere that works so well with Jim Bob’s character.

Highly recommended to fans of Hap and Leonard, as well as fans of the rest of the fine East Texas based novels by Joe R. Lansdale.

4 stars.
Was this review helpful?