Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale
Hap Collins and Leonard Pine return for their eighth-and-a-half book-length adventure. The two best friends are getting older and perhaps slower. Hap has settled down with a woman and Leonard is hoping that problems with his boyfriend do not mean a break-up. Both are now working for private investigator Marvin Hanson, not as detectives but more like operatives. Marvin send them out to gather information about a double homicide: the son of a rich woman and a woman who belonged to a vampire cult. Was it a murder of opportunity, or were one or the other of the victims targeted? An image of a devil's head, painted in red on a nearby tree, seems to point to the cultist as the intended victim.
The devil's head appears to be the signature work of a contract killer. Hap and Leonard discover that the devil's head had appeared near murder victims in several parts of the country. With that, Lansdale takes the reader on another wild East Texas ride where bones break, blood gushes, and the bad guys do not take a liking to Hap and Leonard. In between the beatings and the shootings, Hap suffers a nervous breakdown that could be the end of him, while Leonard clings to life after being shot. Through it all, the situation is aggravated by Leonard's insistence on wearing a deerstalker cap.
Oh, and if dealing with Devil Red is not enough, the other contract assassin in their lives, Vanilla Ride, shows up.
There is no one writing today who writes like Lansdale. Lansdale is not an author. He is a storyteller, and has a storyteller's love of the phrase and of the outrageous. The stories Lansdale tells are grand. I am firmly convinced that anyone who has not read a Lansdale book will die all the poorer.