Joe R. Lansdale: The Thicket

 Joe R. Lansdale, The Thicket  Comments Off on Joe R. Lansdale: The Thicket
Nov 222014

Joe R. Lansdale’s The Thicket (2013) is a bit like Cormac McCarthy wrote a novel from a treatment by Robert E. Howard: it’s a weird, brutal and merciless story that moves on with the speed of a bullet, set in the desolate wasteland of the early 20th century Texas.

The Thicket is a western that pulls no punches. Everything is dirty and violent, but Lansdale makes the people he writes about come alive. The reader cares for them and really wishes no harm would come to them – and then Lansdale makes the worst happen. The bad guys are really scary. The Thicket is truly a gripping read.

The book loses some of its momentum after the first half, and some of the characters lose their spark a bit (especially prostitute Jimmie Sue, who seems very vibrant at first), but the first half and the climax just before the end is some of the best stuff I’ve read all year. Can’t wait for the movie to come out.

Good News for Hap and Leonard Fans

 Joe R. Lansdale  Comments Off on Good News for Hap and Leonard Fans
Nov 112014


It’s a great series of books. I hope the TV series does justice to them. With the people who are involved, I think there’s a good chance it will.

The Ape Man’s Brother – Joe R. Lansdale

 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Joe R. Lansdale  Comments Off on The Ape Man’s Brother – Joe R. Lansdale
Oct 062014

Who better to tell the true, previously-untold tale of a
certain Ape Man and his adopted brother among the great apes than Joe R.
Lansdale? Nobody, that’s who, and so that’s what Joe does in THE APE MAN’S
BROTHER, an excellent novella published by Subterranean Press.

Joe makes it plain early on that this isn’t exactly the same Ape Man those of
us of a certain age grew up reading about, and

Forgotten Books: Private Eye Action As You Like It – Joe R. Lansdale and Lewis Shiner

 Forgotten Books, Joe R. Lansdale, Lewis Shiner, MSMM, mystery fiction, Sam Merwin Jr.  Comments Off on Forgotten Books: Private Eye Action As You Like It – Joe R. Lansdale and Lewis Shiner
Aug 292014

When Joe Lansdale mentioned on Facebook that an e-book
edition of this collection was available, I knew I had to get it. My copy of
the original edition is gone, and I wanted to read the introductions by Joe and
Lew Shiner again. They’re the best part of this book for me.

Not that the stories themselves aren’t very good. They are. Some of my
favorites, in fact. PRIVATE EYE ACTION AS YOU LIKE

“Bizarre and generally delightful…A welcome jolt of gonzo…So gloriously WTF.”

 Cold in July, Film, Joe R. Lansdale, New York Magazine  Comments Off on “Bizarre and generally delightful…A welcome jolt of gonzo…So gloriously WTF.”
Jun 052014

“Bizarre and generally delightful…A welcome jolt of gonzo…So gloriously WTF.”

New York Magazine‘s review of the film adaptation of Cold In July sums up everything we love about Joe R. Lansdale.

Sep 132013

Contrasted ConfinementJoe R. Lansdale’s THE THICKET kicks off our Fall 2013 season this week, and the coverage of Joe’s newest has been absolutely astounding. Kirkus gave THE THICKET a rave review, praising Lansdale’s newest as “alternately violent and tender, with a gently legendary quality that makes this tall tale just about perfect.”  Publishers Weekly called the book “satisfying” and remarked upon Lansdale’s ability to tale a tale by turns “grim” and “hilarious.”

But it’s not just the trades that love Lansdale’s newest! MysteryPeople, blog of the famed Austin, TX store, says THE THICKET at once has “echoes of True GritThe Searchers, and Lonesome Doveand is also “the perfect story for Lansdale.” Not to be outdone, LitReactor writes: “If you like dialogue – gritty, sharp, well-written dialogue – then The Thicket is a must-read. ”

Jenny Dial Creech at The Houston Chronicle also absolutely loved THE THICKET, writing:  ”“Opening lines don’t get much better than this…Let the comparisons continue with this latest work, which reads like a dark version of The Adventure of Tom Sawyer and feels like a Coen brothers movie. It’s the perfect mix of light and dark, with plenty of humor mixed in.”

Looking for more than just review coverage? Read to Write has an interview up with Lansdale in which Lansdale discusses writing for the region and period and much more. Den of Geek has an interview with Lansdale in which he discusses his writing process.

Audio’s more your thing? Check out this interview with Joe on the Reading and Writing podcast that really demonstrates his abilities as a storyteller.

Finally, right here on, Joe shared with us his inspirations for THE THICKET, and we’ve also got up an excerpt from the novel’s first chapter. More to come as the press rolls in and Lansdale, the Mulholland team, and several other of our esteemed authors head off to Bouchercon next week in Albany!

PEN MONKEY: The Road Less Travelled

 Joe R. Lansdale, Lit  Comments Off on PEN MONKEY: The Road Less Travelled
Aug 272013

PEN MONKEY: The Road Less Travelled:


Earlier in this trip an unfortunate event was reported to me, one of my favorite living authors Elmore Leonard had passed away. There is a short list of living authors that hold that “great” title in my mind and with the list shortened I’d say Joe R. lansdale comfortably slides into the top spot.

Apr 152013

PunchDid you know today is Joe R. Lansdale Appreciation Day? To tie in with Horror Novel Reviews‘ day-long celebration, we’ll be reposting our greatest-of posts about Joe’s work and a few from the legend himself.

Things have changed. The world has evolved. A punch in the mouth ain’t what it used to be.

Once you were more apt to settle your own problems, or have them settled for you, by an angry party. Teeth could be lost, and bones could be broken, but mostly you just got  black eye, a bloody nose, or you might be found temporarily unconscious, face down in a small pool of blood out back of a bar with a shoe missing.

These days, even defending yourself can be tricky. It seems to me a butt-whipping in the name of justice has mutated to three shots from an automatic weapon at close quarters and three frames of bowling with your dead head. There are too many nuts with guns these days, and most of them just think the other guy is nuts. An armed society is a polite society only if those armed are polite. Otherwise, it just makes a fellow nervous.

Still, not wishing back the past. Not exactly. But there are elements of the past I do miss. There are times when I like the idea of settling your own hash—without gunfire. Sometimes the other guy has it coming.

When I was a kid in East Texas, we lived in a home that sat on a hill overlooking what was called a beer joint or honky-tonk. Beyond the tonk was a highway, and beyond that a drive-in theater standing as tall and white as a monstrous slice of Wonder Bread.

104.9 FMYou could see the drive-in from our house, and from that hill my mother and I would watch the drive-in without sound. What I remember best were Warner Bros. cartoons. As we watched, mom would tell me what the cartoon characters were saying. Later, when I saw the cartoons on TV—something we didn’t have at the time—I was shocked to discover Mom had made up the stories out of the visuals. My mom was a dad-burned liar. It was an early introduction to storytelling.

But this isn’t storytelling. This is reporting, and what I’m about to tell you is real, and I was there. It’s one of my first memories. So mixed up was the memory that, years later, when I was a grown man, I had to ask my mother if it was a dream, or fragments of memories shoved together. I had some things out of order, and I had mixed in an item or two, but my mother sorted them out for me. This is what happened.

My mother and I stayed at home nights while my dad was on the road, working on trucks. He was a mechanic and a troubleshooter for a truck company. My entertainment was my mother and that silent drive-in and the fistfights that sometimes occurred in the honky-tonk parking lot, along with the colorful language I filed away for later use.

We were so poor that my dad used to say that if it cost a quarter to crap, we’d have to throw up. There wasn’t money for a lot of toys, nor at that time a TV, which was a fairly newfangled instrument anyway. We listened to the radio when the tubes finally glowed and warmed up enough for us to bring in something.

Dad decided that the drive-in, seen through a window at a great distance, and a static-laden radio with a loose tube that if touched incorrectly would knock you across the room with a flash of light and a hiss like a spitting cobra, were not proper things for a growing boy. He thought I needed a friend.

StojankaBelow, at the tonk, a dog delivered pups. Dad got me one. It was a small, fuzzy ball of dynamite. Dad named him Honky Tonk. I called him Blackie. I loved that dog so dearly that even writing about him now makes me emotional. We were like brothers. We drank out of the same bowl, when mom didn’t catch us; and he slept in my bed, and we shared fleas. We had a large place to play, a small creek out back, and beyond that a junkyard of rusting cars full of broken glass and sharp metal and plenty of tetanus.

And there was the house.

It sat on a hill above the creek, higher than our house, surrounded by glowing red and yellow flowers immersed in dark beds of dirt. It was a beautiful sight, and on a fine spring day those flowers pulled me across that little creek and straight to them as surely as a siren calling to a mariner. Blackie came with me, tongue hanging out, his tail wagging. Life was great. We were as happy as if we had good sense and someone else’s money.

I went up there to look, and Blackie, like any self-respecting dog, went there to dig in the flower bed. I was watching him do it, probably about to join in, when the door opened and a big man came out and snatched my puppy up by the hind legs and hit him across the back of the head with a pipe, or stick, and then, as if my dog were nothing more than a used condom, tossed him into the creek.

Then the man looked at me.

I figured I was next and bolted down the hill and across the creek to tell my mother. She had to use the next-door neighbor’s phone, as this was long before everyone had one in their pocket. It seemed no sooner than she walked back home from making her call than my dad arrived like Mr. Death in our old black car.

He got out wearing greasy work clothes and told me to stay and started toward the House of Flowers. I didn’t stay. I was devastated. I had been crying so hard my mother said I hiccupped when I breathed. I had to see what was about to happen. Dad went across the creek and to the back door and knocked gently, like a Girl Scout selling cookies. The door opened, and there was the Flower Man.

My dad hit him. It was a quick, straight punch and fast as a bee flies. Flower Man went down faster than a duck on a june bug, but without the satisfaction. He was out. He was hit so hard his ancestors in the prehistoric past fell out of a tree.

Dad grabbed him by the ankles and slung him through the flowerbed like a dull weed eater, mowed down all those flowers, even made a mess of the dirt. If Flower Man came awake during this process, he didn’t let on. He knew it was best just to let Dad finish. It was a little bit like when a grizzly bear gets you; you just kind of have to go with it. When the flowers were flat, Dad swung the man by his ankles like a discus, and we watched him sail out and into the shallow creek with a sound akin to someone dropping wet laundry on cement.

We went down in the creek and found Blackie. He was still alive. Flower Man didn’t move. He lay in the shallow water and was at that moment as much a part of that creek as the gravel at its bottom.

Daddy took Blackie home and treated his wound, a good knock on the noggin, and that dog survived until the age of 13. When I was 18, Blackie and I were standing on the edge of the porch watching the sun go down, and Blackie went stiff, flopped over the edge, dead for real this time.

Bless my daddy. We had our differences when I was growing up, and we didn’t see eye to eye on many things. But he was my hero from that day after. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember what he did that day, and how he made something so dark and dismal turn bright.

No one sued. Then, events like that were considered personal. To pull a lawyer into it was not only embarrassing, but just plain sissy. Today we’d be sued for the damage my dog did, the damage my dad did, and emotional distress, not to mention bandages and the laundry bill for the wet and dirty clothes.

I know the man loved his flowers. I know my dog did wrong, if not bad. I know I didn’t give a damn at the time and thought about digging there myself. But I was a kid and Blackie was a pup, and if ever there was a little East Texas homespun justice delivered via a fast arm and a hard fist, that was it.

Flower Man, not long after that, moved away, slunk off like a carnival that owed bills. A little later we moved as well, shortly after the drive-in was wadded up by a tornado. That’s another story.

Originally published in the Texas Observer.

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of numerous novels and short stories. His work has received the Edgar Award, seven Bram Stoker Awards, a British Fantasy Award, and has twice been named a New York Times Notable Book, among other honors. The film adaptation of his novella “Bubba Ho-tep” was directed by Don Coscarelli and starred Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His novel Vanilla Ride, from Knopf, has just been released in paperback by Vintage. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mulholland Books will publish EDGE OF DARK WATER in 2012.

Apr 152013

Did you know today is Joe R. Lansdale Appreciation Day? To tie in with Horror Novel Reviews‘ day-long celebration, we’ll be reposting our greatest-of posts about Joe’s work and a few from the legend himself.

When we passed along  Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER to Dan Simmons, we had high hopes he would like the novel as much as we did. Dan loved the novel so much he provided us with not just a nice quote, but an inspired, insightful essay which is included in the paperback edition of Joe’s novel, and which we’re delighted to share with you below.

Go pick yourself up a copy of EDGE OF DARK WATER if you haven’t already! And be on the lookout for Joe’s next novel THE THICKET, in bookstores everywhere this September.

Since Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in America in 1885, there have been hundreds — if not thousands – of favorable comparisons to Twain’s masterpiece by publishers, blurbers, and/or reviewers of “contemporary” novels. Almost all of these comparisons have been inappropriate or just plain silly since – a) Huckleberry Finn was an unmatched novel of male adolescence, moral awakening, and an entire dark era of American history told in perfect regional and temporal vernacular   b) as Ernest Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called  Huckleberry Finn . . . It’s the best book we’ve had” and c) Mark Twain was a genius.

The river voyages and brilliant narratives in both Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are cries from the heart of the heart of America’s darkness. Both books are the result of real genius at work.Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water is worthy of being compared to Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Nor are the rafts or the marvelous and terrifying river voyages in both books the primary reasons for Lansdale — and what may be his masterpiece – earning the right to this comparison to Twain’s masterpiece. “Sue Ellen’s” voice throughout Lansdale’s novel is almost certainly the strongest, truest, and most pitch-perfect regional-temporal vernacular narration since Huck Finn’s. The young protagonist’s moral decisions in Edge of Dark Water are among the most complex (yet clearest) since Huck decided to “steal” Jim and go to Hell forever for doing so. Edge of Dark Water evokes a time and place – East Texas, Depression era – as powerfully as Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn preserved and illuminated the Mississippi River region in pre-Civil-War America.

Finally, if we’re to quote Hemingway on how wonderful Twain’s book was, we need to add his all-important caveat – “If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.” It was (and remains) “just cheating” because Twain decided that he had to keep the ending of Huckleberry Finn, as was his goal for all of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to being “just another Boys’ Book” in order to hold up his novel’s subscription sales and library orders in Victorian America. And so, after Tom Sawyer shows up, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just a funny and beautifully written boys’ book, whether we want to admit it or not. “Jim” ceases to be the complex, human, adult Jim of the rest of the important novel and Huck becomes a mere sidekick again to Tom.

Joe Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water does not suffer from Mark Twain’s forgivable failure of nerve at the finale of Huckleberry Finn, nor in any lack of confidence in the maturity and courage of his readership. Perhaps most importantly, Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water stands alone and confident in its own dark power and beauty and doesn’t require comparisons to any other novel.

DAN SIMMONS is a recipient of numerous major international awards, including the Hugo Award, World Fantasy Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, and the Shirley Jackson Award. He is widely considered to be one of the premier multiple-genre fiction writers in the world. His most recent novels include the New York Times bestseller The Terror, Drood, and Black Hills. He lives along the Front Range in Colorado and has never grown tired of the views. Visit him online at

Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water, about which the Boston Globe raved: “From its pages waft memories of Huckleberry FinnTo Kill A Mockingbird, and even As I Lay Dying,” and which was praised by the New York Times Book Review as ”a charming Gothic tale…as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain,” is now available in bookstores everywhere.