Hell’s Bounty

August 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

bountyHell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale


A few years ago, my wife and I were in the car and heard a song that sounded like a band trying hard, and failing, to sound like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At the commercial break, the announcer told us that it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hell’s Bounty is the story version of that experience with Joe R. Lansdale.

The story is one of Lansdale’s weird westerns, set in the Old West but populated with demons and other supernatural beings. This time around, a town’s resident bully gets suckered into doing a demon’s bidding, and a handful of townspeople get together to try to stop him. One of those townspeople, our main character, has made a deal with the devil to rid the town of the demon, so he has a strong motivation to finish the job quickly.

The story is peppered with the grim humor, vivid banter, and graphic violence one would expect from a Lansdale story, but somehow still falls short of being one. It would be easy to place the blame on John, since that’s the new variable introduced into the formula, but I can’t find anything about the process of how the story was written. Is it his idea, written by Joe, Joe’s idea written by John, or a true collaboration the whole way through? In the end, it doesn’t matter (it’s still not very good), but I can’t help but be curious.

The print edition may be different, but the ebook is full typos, like “too and fro”, “the but of the shotgun”, “ads up”, “barred teeth”, and an egregious misuse of “breathe”. Throw in more unnecessary commas than ants at a picnic and you have a fine mess. Did no one copy-edit this book before it went to press? And if the print edition is missing these errors, what the heck happened to the book when it was digitized?

Lansdale has written some great weird westerns. Hell’s Bounty is not one of them. There’s nothing wrong with the story, but it doesn’t sing like his other stories do. For a better introduction to Lansdale’s unique style and genre, pick up any of his Jonah Hex collections.


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