Cold in July

Joe R. Lansdale

A shocking crime thriller to chill the even the warmest summer’s night, this gritty Texan novel inspired a major motion picture featuring Michael C. Hall (Dexter) Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice).


Cold in July

by Joe R. Lansdale

ISBN: Print ISBN: 9781616961619; Particle Books Digital ISBN: 9781616963101

Published: July 2018

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital Formats


A shocking crime thriller to chill even the warmest summer’s night, this gritty Texan thriller inspired the major motion picture Cold in July, featuring Michael C. Hall (Dexter) Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice).

Richard Dane has killed a man. Everyone in the small town of LaBorde, Texas knows Dane acted in self-defense — everyone except Ben Russel, the father of the criminal who invaded Dane’s home.

When Russel comes looking for revenge against Dane’s family, the two fathers are unexpectedly drawn into a conspiracy that conceals the vilest of crimes. Surrounded by police corruption, mafia deception, and underworld brutality, Dane, Russel, and eccentric PI Jim Bob Luke have discovered a game they may not survive.

Praise for Cold in July

“This book is a rare treat for fans of crime and noir fiction with a dark side and is a testament to just how good of a writer Lansdale is.”

“Impressive Realism-meets-Road House-circa ’89 fight-scenes, tailings, and gunfights. . . . You’re sure to finish this book fast, but you’re also sure to think on it slowly.”
—Lit Reactor

“One of the benefits of Cold in July being made into an independent movie (adapted by screenwriter/actor Nick Damici and directed by Jim Mickle) is this new, movie tie-in edition from Tachyon, Joe R. Landsdale’s publisher . . . a finely told crime story.”

“A crime fiction classic.”
—The Novel Pursuit

“It’s a major novel, full of darkness, humor, passion, and truth.”
-Lewis Shiner, author of Glimpses and Mozart in Mirroshades (with Bruce Sterling)

“I can’t think of a more remarkable suspense novel in the last few years. Cold in July has it all….”
-Ed Gorman, author of The Poker Club

Cold in July is more than a novel of detection; it is an odyssey into the dark recesses of the human psyche….”
-Loren D. Estleman, author of Burning Midnight

“Told by a master writer . . . a great novel.”
—Murder by the Book

“Lansdale has a dark sense of humor and a brilliant ability to translate physical tension onto the page. In this novel, originally published in 1989 (and a film by the time you read this), he blends crime, southern gothic, and his own brand of East Texas noir. Don’t miss it.”
—Bookshelf Bombshells

“A character-driven thriller with more twists than an off-the-map dirt road, awards-quality performances from the three leads, a rare sensitivity to the after-effects of horror and a sure directorial hand.”

“This is crime fiction/pulp fiction at its best. It is dark, it is dangerous, it is wickedly humorous. . . .”
—Looking for a Good Book

“Read the book as soon as you can get your hands on a copy.”
Everything Noir

About the Author

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Edgar Award–winning Hap and Leonard mystery series (Mucho MojoTwo Bear Mambo) and the New York Times Notable Book The Bottoms. More than two hundred of his stories have appeared in such outlets as Tales From the Crypt and Pulphouse, and his work has been adapted for The Twilight Zone and Masters of Horror. Lansdale has written several graphic novels, including Fantastic Four. He is a tenth-degree black belt and the founder of the Shen Chuan martial art.

Jim Mickle (Foreword) is the director of Cold in July, as well as of critically acclaimed films including Mulberry Street and Stake Land. His film We Are What We Are was screened at the 2013 Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals.

Praise for Joe R. Lansdale

“A folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace.”
New York Times Book Review

“A terrifically gifted storyteller.”
Washington Post Book Review

“A zest for storytelling and gimlet eye for detail.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Lansdale is a storyteller in the Texas tradition of outrageousness . . . amped up to about 100,000 watts.”
Houston Chronicle

“Lansdale’s been hailed, at varying points in his career, as the new Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner-gone-madder, and the last surviving splatterpunk . . . sanctified in the blood of the walking Western dead and righteously readable.”
Austin Chronicle

“Like gold standard writers Elmore Leonard and the late Donald Westlake, Joe R. Lansdale is one of the more versatile writers in America.”
Los Angeles Times

“Laugh-out-loud funny, acquainted with the night, and often acutely profound.”
Dallas News

“Definitely not for the fainthearted or the easily offended.”

“The characters are so ridiculously realistic and the plots so simple that you can’t help but wonder why something so uncomplicated can be so fantastic. That is the magic of Lansdale.”
Horror Bound

“Since I’m not mincing words, let me say that Mr. Lansdale doesn’t mince them either. That trip from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ (with some interesting stops along the way) is filled with well-wrought characters, black humor, knife-sharp dialogue, and enough violence to make even the most jaded Quentin Tarantino aficionado sit up and smile.”
Washington Times

“Joe R. Lansdale’s writing swaggers back and forth through a variety of genres, format, and media, blending elements and tones in unconventional ways, but never losing sight of the importance of story and character. His characters feel authentic, his environments are believable, and his plots are gripping. He’s a great storyteller in the most classic American tradition; one gets the sense that if mankind never got around to technology, Lansdale would be roaming the country, regaling campfire crowds . . . the one thing he cannot write, will not write, is bullshit.”
The Kind of Face You Hate

Visit the Joe R. Lansdale website.


Chapter 15

That night Jordan went back to bed with us and I lay there thinking about Russel. After all that had happened, the thing that kept coming back to me was that he had hands like my father and he had had them around my neck. It was like my old man had come back from the grave to choke me for something I had done. I could never quite get it out of my mind—in spite of what I knew about my mother—that I had been in some way responsible for him eating the barrel of his Winchester.

I eventually gave up trying to sleep and went into the kitchen and put some strong coffee on. While that was brewing I went into Jordan’s room and turned on the light and looked around. The Little Sprout lamp, which had been beside his bed on the nightstand before Ann used it to hit Russel, lay on the floor where she had dropped it when the cops came in. There was a mark in the headboard of the bed where Russel had thrown the knife, but other than that, everything looked normal.

I walked around the room touching toys and books, assuring myself that things were as they had been and that they would coast along properly from here on out. It was a lie I very much wanted to believe.

I put the lamp where it belonged and sat down on Jordan’s bed, and while I was sitting there, I saw something dark sticking out from beneath Jordan’s battered toy box. Getting down on my hands and knees, I pulled it out and saw that it was a wallet. Without opening it, I knew it was Russel’s and that it had slid under there during the fight.

The thing to do was to give it to the cops, but I couldn’t resist a peek inside first. The first thing I saw was a photograph encased in one of those plastic windows. Russel was a young man in the picture and he looked handsome, strong and happy. He was down on his knee and he had his arm around a little blond-haired boy holding a BB gun. The boy looked about Jordan’s age. On the back of the photograph was written: Freddy and Dad.

There was a photograph behind that one, and it was of a young man in his early twenties. He was blond, blue-eyed, and handsome, if slightly thick in the chin. On the back of the photograph in the same handwriting was Freddy.
I thought about Freddy the night I shot him, and tried to match his face with this one. The burglar had had brown hair sticking out from beneath his cap and the eye that wasn’t a wound had been brown. His chin had been narrow, and never in his life had he been handsome or even passably attractive.

If this was a photograph of Freddy Russel, then the man I shot wasn’t him.

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