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 www.dansimmons.com.

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.

Feb 102012

Gabriella Herkert
Catnapped and Doggone

Confession time. I’m not a music person. I know we creative types are supposed to be hanging out together and I have nothing but awe for the truly talented musicians and songwriters in the world who manage to tell their stories with rhythm. But the thing is, I grew up in a predominantly silent house. Except for the yelling and name-calling to be expected with eight people and one bathroom, there wasn’t a lot of noise much less composition that would lend itself to a background tapestry upon which I could paint my life story.

I was going to write this blog by finding out the top songs in the key moments in my life but figured out that would help everyone do the longevity math and, well, that is not a place I’m going to willingly go. Instead, I chose some key moments, places and people and borrowed quotes from some of my favorite authors that, at least in my rather convoluted thinking, manage to convey the essence of that person I was in that moment. With any luck, once linked, each of these snapshots will flow into the verbal soundtrack of the Life of Gabi.

Of course, I couldn’t make it that easy and I’m a little unsettled with simply handing the key that makes me tick over without a little fight, I’ve written two lists. Mix and match my bulleted moments with the numbered quotation. Any insights are welcome. Answers are at the end.

A. Reporting day at the United States Military Academy at West Point
B. Circus school
C. Kerouac and Kokopelli
D. Arthur Andersen interview, Bouchercon and parade formation
E. Moving to Austin to write full-time
F. The terme baths at the Grand Wailea Spa, Maui
G. Law school at the University of Oregon
H. Amarillo, Texas
I. 7 Criminal Minds
J. Changing the world

  1. “I can’t swim.” – The Sundance Kid
  2. “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.” — Dr. Seuss
  3. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz
  4. “I say beware of all enterprises which require new clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau
  5. “Oh,” said Cecilia with a deep sigh, “but we must live here.” An Irish setter ran out to inspect us. I bent down and patted it. “With a dog,” I added. — A.A. Milne
  6. “Who leaves the pine-tree, leaves his friend,Unnerves his strength, invites his end.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  7. “The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” – Joseph Conrad
  8. “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” – Gertrude Stein
  9. “Where’s the beef?” – Clara Pell
  10. “Good friends, good books, and a sleep conscience: this is the ideal life.” Mark Twain

A. 4 — The West Point dress grey uniform is the same outfit worn by the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. There’s a clue in there somewhere.

B. 1 — I was the first person in my trapeze class to climb all the way to the ceiling using the silks. Then I looked down. Unlike Sundance, I knew it was the fall that was the problem (although technically, it’s the landing).

C. 5 — Ker and Koko are my dogs, past and present. It’s not a home without dog hair on everything.

D. 2 — These are all examples of moments when the brains in my head had to work out the fix for the two left shoes on my feet.

E. 7 — I turned my world upside down to spend more time writing, moved to Austin and promptly burned my office-cubicle-haven’t-seen-the-sun-in-Seattle skin to a crisp.

F. 8 – Everyone has a place they walk into and no is their special place. Those terme baths — they’re mine.

G. 3 – I went from culturally homogenous Midwest to identical soldier Army to the Grateful Dead are in town Eugene, Oregon. Talk about your culture shock.

H. 9 – My mother liked to route our vacations so we could eat at the Big Texas steakhouse. Wisconsin to California via Amarillo, Texas. Is my sense of direction (or dearth of one) any real surprise?

I. 10 – I love our blog community even if my chances of being arrested have increased by a factor of ten thousand.

J. 6 – I’ve been working with the passionate people at the Rainforest Partnership to bring sustainable incomes to communities in the rainforest while protecting the environment. I don’t leave my friends.

Thanks for reading.


 Posted by at 8:01 am