Joe Lansdale, His Ownself, at Bookpeople

Joe Lansdale at Book People Thurs, April 5

Joe Lansdale, His Ownself, at Bookpeople

We've got maybe three contemporary American authors whose new work we anticipate year round. John Burdett (the Bangkok series) is one, Stephen King is another, but most of all, we pine for new work from Texas's own national treasure, Joe R. Lansdale, Nacogdoches native and genre-defying literary genius nonpareil.

Lucky us, Lansdale's got a new novel out, Edge of Dark Water (Little, Brown and Company) and it's a doozy of a read, the kind of book we call an "all nighter" on account of because if you crack this one open at nightfall you'll likely find yourself finishing it come dawn's early light. It's that kind of great, and it's pure-blood Lansdale, crammed to bursting with plot twists that recall the snaky bends of the Sabine River, upon which much of the plot rests. Except this being a Joe R. Lansdale novel, there's precious little rest to be had. This sucker moves.

A period piece set in the author's East Texas stomping grounds during the Depression, Edge of Dark Water has an dank undertow that first sucks the reader in, and then drags them down into a story that thematically encompasses everything from childhood allegiances, racial tensions, sexuality, murder, a tongueless maniac nightmare named Skunk and the four teens -- three alive, one dead -- who attempt to flee bad, black circumstance only to find themselves in even deeper, darker waters. It's our favorite book of the year so far, and one of Lansdale's best, ever.

There's been a lot of "bests" for Lansdale, though. We first discovered him at the 1989 World Fantasy Convention in Seattle, where he blew our mind with a live reading of his now-classic short, Night They Missed the Horror Show, and so unique was that story that we immediately backtracked and picked up Lansdale's debut novel, The Nightrunners.

That one messed with our head, too, and we've been insatiable Lansdale fanatics ever since. He's that rare writer who can combine outrageous, scatological humor, biting social commentary, pit bull-vicious violence, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of true Lone Star heart with some of the damnedest storytelling you've ever read. If we've said it once, we've said it a million times: Joe R. Lansdale's writing is more addictive than an Oxycontin-and-fried-onion cheeseburger and twice as intoxicating.

Regular readers of Lansdale are probably already familiar with the endless list of awards the man has received: eight (8!) Bram Stoker Awards, the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and on, and on.

Lansdale's mantel surely sags, even while his ridiculously inventive and entertaining "Hap Collins and Leonard Pine" series of mysteries -- concerning the ongoing misadventures of a straight, neurotic white man and his gay, black best friend in (where else?) the Piney dog end of East Texas -- continue to attract readers like backwoods Pentecostal preachers attract wayward snake fetishists.

There's no one on earth that writes, or has ever written, like The Nacogdoches Kid, and if you don't believe us, tough titty and your loss, pardner. But don't be a dope. Go check him out at Bookpeople this Thursday, April 5, 7pm, where he'll be reading and signing.

And if you don't immediately fall hard for Lansdale's prose, well, hell, we'll buy you a Lone Star afterwards and call it even. (And then we'll make you watch filmmaker Don Coscarelli's inspired adaptation of Lansdale's short Bubba-Ho-Tep.) You don't like that, well, we'll probably run you out of town and bury you in a shallow Texas Hill Country grave with a roadkill armadillo for a headstone and not much else. But, trust us, we may not know Jack but we sure as hell know Joe.

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Joe R. Lansdale, Bookpeople, Edge of Dark Water

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