I’ve always liked reading books authored by Joe R. Lansdale. They generally take place in east Texas, and there isn’t anyone who can make you feel like you’re standing in prickly weeds with sand in your boots better than Lansdale. While I have spent nearly no time at all in Texas, for some reason I’m drawn to books that take place in rural east and west Texas. I’m also drawn to books that take place in the 1960s, the era in which I spent my formative years.
More Better Deals is a dark, gritty novel that met those criteria. Lansdale tells the story of Ed Edwards, who lives in the same town he’s always lived in, and works as a used car salesman. It’s the 1960s, folks, so the car dealership is certainly Buyer Beware. Joe’s the top salesman. He’s the one that makes “more ‘better deals.’ ”
Edwards is sent to repossess a Cadillac sold to Frank Craig, a traveling salesman, who also owns the drive-in theater outside of town and a pet cemetery. When Edwards arrives at their home, Craig isn’t there, but his beautiful and ultra-sexy wife Nancy is. She makes her play for Ed, and he doesn’t resist. A torrid affair begins.
Before long, Nancy begins to work on Ed, trying to convince him to kill her husband and live with her and her life insurance money. Ed’s a good guy at heart, but the idea of having a business like the drive-in where he can earn a decent living appeals to him. He is looking for a way to get his sister out of town, away from their drunken mother. The money would allow her to go to college.
As you would imagine, things don’t go as he had hoped. It isn’t long before he has committed crimes he never thought he would commit.
The plot sounds sort of quirky, but the novel is anything but. It’s a dark look at life and poverty and substance abuse and murder. But while I will admit that it isn’t my favorite Lansdale novel, I love his writing and his ability to draw his readers into the story. Perhaps not the uplifting novel I was looking for during this time, but a good read nevertheless.