Dust jacket illustration by Ken Laager.
Jane has lost her job at the laundry due to a ketchup package she forgot to remove from an expensive item, and her prospects look dim. To top off matters, her younger sister, who lives up north, and who Jane has problems with, is getting married and has mailed her an invitation that Jane believes was sent due to her sister not expecting her to be able to come.
A long bout of sibling rivalry makes Jane all the more determined to go, even if her car has gone to hell. To make the journey, Jane forms an uncomfortable alliance with a grumpy, one-eyed, weight-lifting lady named Henry, who may or may not abandon her along the way, and has plans to see a doctor Henry claims can renew her sight. Add past memories of a sexual dalliance with a drunk preacher in the back lot of the church across from her house, an infamous naked run along a creek bank, failed marriages, including an ex-husband that has a bit of goat ardor, and with a shoe full of money, Jane and Henry hit the road. They meet up with modern slavers, panty snatchers, disabled thieves with a sense of grandeur, a country singer named Cheryl who is on the downhill slide, and a quest for the world's greatest toaster that can toast four slices of bread all at once, or in sequence, and has a clock on it. It's one incredible quest consisting of rides in cow trailers, a stolen car, and a convertible, a pirate outfit for children, and what will become a unique friendship.
Limited: 2000 signed numbered hardcover copies
“Lansdale (The Sky Done Ripped, 2019) reinvents the road-trip novel with a pair that make Thelma and Louise seem like rank amateurs… Laced with steely-eyed observations on the condition of working-class America, profanity-laden dialogue, and the occasional confessional between two women on a mission, Jane Goes North is a doggedly grounded tale with moments of real heart.”
From Publishers Weekly:
“Along the way, Jane and Henry battle disabled shoplifters, go on tour with a washed-up country singer, and get kidnapped by an octogenarian and her motley bunch of slavers... Fans of Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard crime novels won’t want to miss this one.”
From Library Journal:
“Lansdale follows his latest “Hap and Leonard” installment, The Elephant of Surprise, with this over-the-top picaresque novel. The crude humor and quirky characters will appeal to the author’s fans.”
Jane Goes North
“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad.
Jane got a note in the mail that said her older sister, Ronnie, was getting married in a place called Ernest City. It was up north, and Jane didn’t really want to go. She knew it would be cold up there and a plane flight would be costly and she would have to buy a new suitcase, and on top of it all, she and her sister didn’t get along all that well. She was surprised she had been invited, and decided it was meant to be a polite invitation, and no one really expected her to come.
That made her want to go. It had always been that way with her. You tried to talk her out of something, she was damn sure going to do it. This had resulted in two ex-husbands, a failed mortgage, a small scar on her left cheek, and a lot of beauty supplies she hadn’t been able to sell. When her mother was alive, she said, “Jane, them supplies you got to pay for yourself if you don’t sell them, and you couldn’t sell a step stool to a midget.”
“I think they like being called Little People,” Jane said.
“Well, you couldn’t sell one to them neither.”
Jane had spited her mother for years in all manner of things to prove her wrong, and just last birthday, turning thirty, she realized she had in fact been proving her right for years. Though she kind of thought she might actually have been able to sell a step stool to someone that was short, on account of they might need it.
She wasn’t sure she could go to the wedding anyway, because she was on what might be called a limited budget. Which meant she had been fired at the laundry where she had been working for eight years, and was living off her savings, such as it was. The firing had been unfair. Some rich lady’s clothes had been ruined when they got cleaned and pressed, but the way Jane saw it, it was the lady’s fault for leaving a package of ketchup from Burger King in a pocket. She couldn’t look through every pocket on every pair of pants or dress, or such, and have it all done by Tuesday.
Didn’t work like that.
But here she was, wondering how she was going to pay for her trailer and the rent on her lot, and her with a wedding to go to. She started to not be stubborn, just decide to not go and make everyone happy, maybe send a cheap gift from the Dollar General, though in a couple of weeks, the bill she owed would be compounded and the best she might be able to send were a few laundry tips, the most important being “Watch out for ketchup packets in pockets. They can break open and ruin stuff.”
What she didn’t understand about Ronnie, was why was she getting married anyway. She and her boyfriend, Fred Clipper, had been living together for five years and already had a two-year old baby and a basset hound. It seemed funny to her these days that the way it worked was you lived together until you got pregnant, and then you got married. The dog could be optional, wedded or not.
This seemed ass-backwards to Jane, but times were a changing, and in fact, had changed about twenty years ago when she was ten, but she hadn’t been paying attention.
She finally decided that if she was going to go, she was going to have to take a bus. Then she thought about the time she had been on a school trip when she was sixteen, and how sick she got riding on a bus. She could still smell the diesel fumes and Marilyn Cover’s sack lunch; it had some kind of foul-smelling meat packed against some kind of foul-smelling cheese, between thick, chewy bread with seeds on it. Come to think of it, Marilyn was the kind of girl that might keep ketchup packets in pockets.
Jane thought it might be fun to leave early, take her time, and drive about and see the country, not that she had the money for it, and her car wasn’t much of one. It got her back and forth from work when she had a job at the laundry, but driving it way up north didn’t seem likely. She might not manage to get far out of town before her junker fell apart, leaving her beside the road with cars blowing by.
Hitchhiking was a thought, but being as she felt she was a comely woman, she might attract unwanted attention, and might even be picked up by a serial killer or a mass murderer, or a Jehovah Witness, so she checked that off her list.
Then she remembered something. This ride-sharing thing they had down at the college. They tacked things up on a board for people to see, and it was listed on the internet as well. Not being able to work the internet, and not even owning a cell phone or a computer due to financial difficulties, Jane tied her hair back and drove over to the university, and after driving around in the visitor parking section waiting for someone to leave so she could park, she finally saw a small car back out. It was driven by a blonde girl who drove like she thought she couldn’t be killed. She backed out quick and without looking nearly ran over Jane’s hunk of junk, and then drove off, maybe never knowing she had nearly clipped a car behind her.
Jane had an urge to follow her, and when she stopped somewhere, give her a few driving guidelines, but she decided she didn’t have enough gas for unnecessary running around, and any strain on her old car might be too much, like having sex with an eighty-year-old husband without having seen the will.
Jane parked and walked over to the student union building. She found the board with the rides pinned to it. There were only three little cards requesting shared rides, and the rest of the board was filled with ads for upcoming events. As for the rides, all three wanted to ride in someone else’s car, which considering this was what Jane wanted to do, didn’t help much.
Back home Jane thought about it, and finally decided she was damn sure going to go to the wedding and she was going to chance it in her car. She thought if she left in the cool of the night, the car might be less inclined to heat up. It was an old car and the radiator loved to get hot and spill and steam water out of it, but that was partly because it was an East Texas summer and so damn hot during the day a lizard needed a straw hat. But at night it would be somewhat cooler, and she could stop and rest through the day some place. She didn’t really have money for many nights at a motel, but she might pull into truck stops and sleep in her car. Some folks said a Save-Mart parking lot, since the stores were open twenty-four hours, was a great place to park your car and sleep. She thought too, as she got farther north, the weather would be cooler and less stress on her radiator.
It was the only idea she could come up with. She gave it a day to think about, didn’t change her mind when morning came, so she packed up and put some canned beans in a box, and put those in the backseat of the car, along with her day to day needs, makeup, clothes, shoes and such, a sack lunch, as well as her one nice little black dress to wear to the wedding. She felt it would be fine, since the wedding was to be casual. It wasn’t like she had been asked to be a bridesmaid, or to even serve punch.
Her other sisters would be there. They were all right. Better than Ronnie, her entitled, snotty, younger sister. The other two had both married into money and lived not far from the youngest, so it wasn’t the same burden for them to go, and they were only part time assholes, though they were jealous of her, and always had been. Jane thought it was because she was the pretty sister, but then it often occurred to her that maybe they just didn’t like her, and perhaps she wasn’t likeable. It was a possibility.
Jane had driven about five miles out of town when the car started to act up. She pulled over beside the road and opened the hood like she knew what she was doing. She watched the radiator cough white smoke into the air for a while, then closed the hood. She had learned nothing except her car wasn’t running and might possibly be on fire.
A few minutes later a man who was close to ninety years old if he was a minute, pulled over in a pickup truck and got out. He managed himself over to her car with a determination fitting a Spartan warrior; it took him so long to get there, Jane thought he might die before he arrived, but he finally showed up with sweaty arm pits and a determined look.
“You got a problem?” he asked.
This seemed obvious, but Jane said, “I do. Do you know anything about cars?”
“I couldn’t fix a wheelbarrow with new parts,” he said.
“What I can do is give you a ride somewhere.”
“Back to town,” she said.
On the way back, she learned the old man was named Luther and had a prostate problem but it had never kept him from getting it up when he needed to, though he made it abundantly clear he wasn’t referring to her as a possible subject to demonstrate his ability, just passing the time of day with his ailment. But when he dropped her off at the mechanic’s he gave her his phone number on a fast food sack and wrote next to it, “In case you get bored.”
The mechanic drove her out to her car in his wrecker and looked it over. He was a long, greasy shirted man with a frayed cap that seemed to perch on his head more than fit on it. He spat a lot of tobacco while he looked under the hood, some of which found its way onto the engine, causing it to steam a little. He also managed to spit on Jane’s shoe.
“It’s real hot,” he said.
“I noted that,” she said, shaking the tobacco from her shoe with a vigorous wiggle of her foot.
He saw her do that, but didn’t comment.
“I mean the car’s hot, not the weather,” he said.
“Got that too.”
“It’s got a busted radiator.”
“How do you fix it?”
“With a new radiator.”
“Can it be patched?”
“Only if you plan to back it in and out of your driveway now and again. It goes any kind of distance, or your drive it over thirty miles an hour for long, it’s going to blow.”
“How much is a new radiator?”
He told her, and then he told her how much the cost of the installation would be.
Jane said, “How much just to haul it back to my house?”
- Ken Laager
- Joe R. Lansdale