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More Better Deals


More Better Deals

For the last several years, Joe R. Lansdale has been publishing books as if he hears the clock winding down. That may be so, but the quantity of his work has not affected the quality in any way. MORE BETTER DEALS, which is his third book published in 2020, is one of his best, loaded with dark imagery, hilariously layered dialogue, tight plotting and unforgettable characters. It is also one of the must-read novels of this or any year.

MORE BETTER DEALS is told in the voice of Ed Edwards, an unapologetic crook, shyster and thief. Ed has the opportunity to bring all of these vocational qualities to bear in his profession as a used-car salesman. He is a walking, talking cliché, only worse. While the tale is set in 1964 in east Texas, it could take place in 2020 in central Ohio or anywhere that a used-car dealership is set up in a former gas station lot festooned with pennant flags.

"Put MORE BETTER DEALS at the top of your must-read pile. You won’t be sorry if you do and will hate yourself if you don’t."

We learn all we need to know about Ed and his employer, Smiling Dave, within the first few paragraphs. Lansdale makes the introductions and then wastes very little time getting things rolling when Dave tasks Ed with repossessing a Cadillac recently sold to Frank and Nancy Craig. Frank isn’t home when Ed gets there, but Nancy most certainly is, and it doesn’t take long for them to become mutually ensnared and figure out a way to get Frank out of the picture permanently.

If this is starting to sound like a certain James M. Cain novel or your favorite Kathleen Turner movie, you would be correct, at least at first. What readers of this author’s work already know is that a Lansdale book is going to be special. Even if he adapted THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, it would come out differently. Lansdale doesn’t do that. Instead, he matter-of-factly throws in a bit of a surprise about Ed, tosses a drive-in movie theater into the mix, adds a pet cemetery, and makes the reader wonder if Ed is going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or vice versa.

What occurs is what happens when folks get together to work for a common cause but for different reasons and don’t know when to stop. I was reminded at various points of the film Bad Lieutenant, a Warren Zevon song (NOT “Werewolves of London”), and the book and movie to which I previously alluded. MORE BETTER DEALS is different from all of them while being absolutely, positively classic Lansdale right up to the last page.

As one might expect, the book is worth reading twice (or more) for the dialogue alone. There is one description where Lansdale, with just a few words, potentially angers everyone at all points on the political spectrum. As for the characters, any adult who has ever bought a used car, been in a relationship with someone more attractive than they are, or feels like they have a target on their back will immediately identify with Ed, among others.

Put MORE BETTER DEALS at the top of your must-read pile. You won’t be sorry if you do and will hate yourself if you don’t.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 24, 2020

More Better Deals
by Joe R. Lansdale