What a writer Joe R Lansdale is. He packs his books with drama, adventure and humour. The dialogue is crisp, believable and entertaining.
Three teenage dirt poor kids wish to fulfil the dreams of their murdered friend the local beauty and take her ashes to Hollywood where she had dreamed and longed to go.
First they have to exhume her body, burn it to ash and travel from East Texas to California. An unlikely trio of a young sassy black girl an intelligent and strong willed abused white girl and the local good looking young man suspected of being and humiliated for being gay. There is also a pot of money they have acquired.
There are many problems and characters some good , but mostly bad along the way. The worst of all is tongueless , recluse tracker, Skunk engaged to bring them , but more importantly the money back. One of the most fearful , stinking characters I have read in a long time. A sadist who likes to torture and remove his victims appendages which he wears as a garland round his neck.
The climax involves the three youngsters final confrontation with Skunk and a final shocking revelation.
I read it over two nights as I found it difficult to put it down. A truly great read.
on 6 February 2012
I must admit I've loved all of Joe R Lansdale's books that I've read so far, and this one was no exception.
Set in rural East Texas in barely post-depression years, this is the story of 3 teenagers, and the mother of one of them, living in a society of poor whites, and blacks, who are soon caught up in an often horrific adventure following the apparent murder of one of their friends. Sue Ellen, Terry and Jinx may be poor and at the mercy of abusive fathers and relatives, but they are not downtrodden. Sue Ellen's mother, Helen, is downtrodden and dependent on the 'cure-all' (a mixture of alcohol and laudanum) to separate her from the misery of her life with Don. Jinx is black and though her family life is better than the whites she is seen, casually, as inferior, even by her friends.
It is discovered that the dead girl, May Lynn, had a secret stash of money, buried by her brother who robbed a bank shortly before dying of natural causes, and it had always been her ambition to go to Hollywood and become a film star. The friends decide to get away, and to take her ashes and the money and go to Hollywood themselves. They are chased by various unpleasant relatives and a corrupt lawman and find themselves on a helter-skelter ride down the Sabine River on a raft, with Helen, who fights her way clear of the cure-all, and for a time with the Reverend Jack Joy, a preacher with bad secrets of his own. Tailing all of them is the Skunk, a backwoods killer who is a legend in his cruelty and has never been known to give up.
There are storms, a raftwreck, killing, heroism, and many secrets coming to light along the way. The whole thing is edge of the seat stuff, but the characters shine through, developing as they go.
Great tale, great author.
on 5 September 2015
Depression era America. Texas.
Whilst out fishing the river Sabine one day, along with her scum-bag father and uncle Gene, teenager Sue Ellen, reels in her dead friend May Lynn.
Who it appears has died from a severe case of drowning, having gone swimming whilst hog-tied to a Singer sewing machine.
Reluctantly her father calls the law, and May Lynn receives a paupers burial..
But dissatisfied with the lack of concern and outcome for her dead pal, Sue Ellen and her friends (Terry a well educated effeminate young man, and Jinx a rather uncouth, straight talking black girl), decide to give her a proper send off in the style she might have wanted (May Lynn was an extremely pretty young lady who had ideas of starring on the silver screen!), by digging up her corpse and incinerating it, so that they might transport her ashes to the Elysian Fields of Hollywood.
Unfortunately though, as well as containing her dreams of super stardom, May Lynn's diary also harbours the secrets of some buried bank heist money, which the trio locate and dig up... and then decide to keep as a way of funding their trip to California, whilst quickly realising that they're not the only ones with their eye on the prize, and that several bad men are prepared to kill in order to get their hands on the score....
I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am still to find a book I don't like by Lansdale.
This reads a little like Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird', crossed with Mark Twain, and oddly enough John Carpenter's 'Halloween'.
With what starts out as a backwoods adventure story, soon turning into an out and out violent chase thriller, as the teenage trio and Sue Ellen's cure-all addicted mother are pursued by the gargantuan 'Skunk' (a hired backwoods murderer, who has a penchant for brutally torturing his victims and cutting off their hands, which he keeps as trophies around his neck!), down the Sabine on their raft.. Meeting a host of well drawn characters, bad weather and snakes along the way.
So if you would, it's like Homer's The Odyssey too. There's even a cyclops in it (well sort of..)!
Of course there's much of Lansdale's trademark humour, homespun tale telling and moral reasoning to keep it amusing and thought provoking in between the action bits. Albeit some of it seems a bit samey by Joe's standards..
Very much recommended though.
on 3 May 2016
This is like Huckleberry Fin for adults, Mr Lansdale has a unique style, and the way he writes is amazing, the language used is realistic and believable. I'm not sure how to describe this book or indeed all of his books they are very funny and very serious, basically he is just brilliant and I'm really chuffed that I found him.
"Edge of Dark Water" opens with a murdered girl being pulled out of the Sabine River. From this beginning one might expect a crime novel, but instead this death is the trigger for a dark Odyssey down the dirty teeming river. Sue Ellen, the novel's teenage narrator, is a compelling character with a compelling story, and her maturity, independence, and humour, make the reader want to stay with her and her friends as they embark on a dangerous journey.
Lansdale is a lyrical writer and he vividly evokes his East Texas setting and the grotesques who inhabit it. The horror is always lurking in the background making this a scary read which nevertheless has real depth. I've always enjoyed Lansdale's short stories (some of which are available free for Kindles) but "Edge of Dark Water" is the first novel of his I've read: I am now eager to explore his world further.
First book I've ever read by this prolific East Texan writing machine Joe R. Lansdale. Born in 1951 Mr Lansdale has over 30 published novels, 18 collections of short stories, a dozen anthologies, his work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, films, TV and he has won a shedload of awards, much too many to list here. Just out of interest he is also a member of the U.S. and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame.
The Guardian newspaper book reviewer once called him "The poet laureate of the East Texan backwoods" Here is a small example taken from his new book - "Uncle Gene was as fat as a hog, but without the personality." Another - "I didn't like it that Mama thought she deserved that ass-whipping. She thought a man was the one that ran things and had the say. She said it was in the Bible. That put me off reading it right away." Personally I love this sort of snappy, somewhat sarcastic dialogue and Mr Lansdale is a master.
The story is told through the eyes of 16 year old Sue Ellen who has been raised in abject poverty by a drunken and violent father, who like many of his ilk, thinks his wife and daughter are his personal, private property to do what he pleases with - both sexually and physically. Sue Ellen's ambition, like many of her young, teenage friends is to escape the misery and hardship of life on the banks of the Sabine River (The Edge of Dark Water) so when due to her best friend, May Lynn's death, the opportunity arises - Sue Ellen and others are on their way. Or are they? What seemed a stroke of good fortune gets more complicated than she could have ever imagined.
The characters are well drawn and developed to the extent I felt emotionally involved with their trials and tribulations, especially Sue Ellen, in that rather unforgiving corner of the United States. The champion mojo has the folklorist's eye for local detail in a region he is obviously extremely familiar with. Never frenetic or frantic, the story moves along at a steady pace, there is some violence but not graphic, quite a few twists and turns, some you see coming, most you don't. All in all a good and rather timeless murder mystery about people commonly known as 'rednecks' and 'white trash' - the poor working class, both black and white of the East Texas backwoods.
on 2 May 2012
`Cause he's a drug, and I'm an addict. He has a style that's like someone tossing out a fishing line - and you're hooked, drawn right in. You simply can't stop reading. In that sense he's like Stephen King, another writer who's writing style is incredibly addictive.
But nobody writes like Lansdale, and every page of `Edge of Dark Water' sings: set in Texas during the Great Depression it follows a bunch of mismatched kids and their misadventures down the Sabine River. There's a dead girl, there's money... and there's a hunter. Sure, there's some gruesome descriptions, but Lansdale has such an easy off-the-cuff style that you just grin and go along with it all. Long time readers of his work will know just how off-the-rails he can go, but here's the thing: Lansdale makes the most ridiculous situations and occurrences seem utterly plausible. How? His style of writing, really, that's simply all there is to it. How he presents things. Not just matter-of-fact, but the humour he wraps them up in, his sardonic turn of phrase when describing something. And his characters are whole and round and alive; the good, the bad and the ulgy. They sass-mouth each other, they say and do bad things but as grim as those things can get Lansdale's wit always shines through. Not that Lansdale is inconsequential in any way: when it comes to the tough parts, the heartfelt moments, Lansdale knows how to reel it in and soak the reader in the emotions of the scene.
I've been reading Lansdale since the late-`80s, with his `Drive-In' novels ("A `B' Movie with Blood and Popcorn, Made in Texas!" as the first book's subtitle declares) and he's never failed to surprise and delight. Sure, for many years he's been associated with the horror genre, but not so much now, and truth be told even from the beginning Lansdale was a chameleon, simply writing whatever he felt like. If you're the kind a reader who likes their writers nice and neatly packaged and always doing the same comforting thing, then Lansdale isn't for you. For the rest of us he's a joy: from weird westerns (`The Magic Wagon', `Dead in the West') to his off-beat crime series featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (there's eight of `em now!). From early dark tales like `The Nightrunners' and `Cold in July' to such recent fine novels as `The Bottoms' and `A Fine Dark Line' (and then there's the short stories, easily a couple of hundred of them, and many an award-winner among them). He can be profound, he can be absurd but he's never less than entertaining. He's a storyteller, first and foremost.
He's been called a cult writer and publishing's best kept secret. But he shouldn't be any one of those: what he should be is an international bestseller, right there on the shelf next to Stephen King. If you've never read him then I envy you the joy of discovering him for the first time - for the rest of us, Lansdale is like a fine wine or a malt whiskey: he just gets better with age.
And you don't have to be a good ol' boy from the deep south to dig him neither; I'm from Scotland and Lansdale speak true and direct to me, just as I'm sure he does for most folks in his home state of Texas. And that's the mark of a real writer, someone who can speak across genres, age groups and even continents. I've had the pleasure of attending many a convention here in the UK and having the honour of meeting dozens of great writers. And I thought this year I was going to get to meet the Terror from Texas hisownself, Mr. Joe R. Lansdale, when he came to FantasyCon in Brighton, England this September - but, alas, I have a family wedding that very same weekend (yeah, I know: 52 weekends in the year and it had to be THAT weekend: kind of irony a Lansdale character would surely have nodded at and appreciated). Far as I know it's the first time he's ever came to a convention in the UK... and I'm going to miss him. Truly gutted. Who knows, maybe he'll have such a good time he'll come back next year to Brighton, England for the World Fantasy Convention. In the meantime I hope he reads this review and knows how much I love his stuff. Keep on writing!
Edge of Dark Water is the first book I have read by the prolific American writer, Joe R Lansdale. In many ways the setting is quite charming, and appears to be set around the 1920s to 1930s in a rural setting in Texas. In some ways it reminded me of the gentle environment which was so endearing in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. However, add into the mix a number of violent murders, torture, robbery and marital violence and it becomes quite far removed from those stories.
The book starts with the discovery of the body of May Lynn, a very pretty little girl whose ambition it was to be a Hollywood star. Her friends, Sue Ellen who has an abusive step father, Jinx a `coloured' girl as the book puts it, and Terry who likes boys rather than girls, hatch a scheme to take May Lynn's ashes to California as a tribute to her. The friends learn of the location of a stash of money from May Lynn's diary and from that point things quickly spiral out of control as the three of them, and Sue Ellen's mother who finally decides to escape from her violent relationship, are on the run.
This is an interesting tale with well developed characters and which becomes quite tense towards the climax. It is very clear from the way this is written that the author is very familiar with this part of America and the social mores in that part of the world at that time. This is redneck country and there is clear contempt of anyone who is not white, and an acceptance of violence both in the home and outside to which the local law enforcement, such as it is, is apt to turn a blind eye. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to exploring more of this author's work.
I'm a big fan of the work of Joe Lansdale, but believe that until recently he didn't have a European publisher, so hopefully he's about to become much better known over here.
East Texas is the setting for the story, as it was in a previous work The Bottoms, specifically the marginal lands that border the river, still a wilderness that folklore populates with the violent and supernatural. The law is no refuge as the local sheriffs are either unable to offer protection or are venal and as much of a threat as what comes out of the woods.
Against a fairly bleak background of poverty and abuse, 14 year old Sue Ellen and her two friends aspire to get away and the opportunity presents itself when their pretty friend - May Lynn - who dreamed of going to Hollywood is murdered. Outraged by the dismissive way in which this is dealt with, they decide to give her body a more meaningful resting place and this starts their journey.
Sue Ellen, the narrator, is a strong and forthright voice. She's what Scout from "To Kill a Mockingbird" would have sounded like had she been bought up dirt poor by an abusive father. I also loved Jinx, her black friend, who has many of the best, snappy lines. One of Lansdale's recurring themes is the treatment of black and gay people in the deep south.
On their way down the river they have a series of encounters and adventures, some of them
funny, others frankly gruesome. This is not a book to read over lunch. Pursued by those who want what they carry, there are quite a few surprises and I cared enough to read the book in two sittings. For my taste, it's not his best book (see "The Bottoms" and the "Hap and Leonard" series such as Mucho Mojo and Bad Chilli), but its still pretty good.
I dont really know what I expected from this book,what I didnt expect was the Dark and Bloody (though sometimes amusing)storyline, some of the descriptive lines in this novel are brilliant and it is easy to imagine them being used in real life.
I will not review the plot in depth as other more eloquent reviewers have already done so.What I will do is give my feelings about the book as a whole.
Imagine Huckleberry Finn on acid with a slice of video nasty thrown in and a little 'Deliverance' (if anyone remembers the movie)give it a good shake and this is what you get. Altogether this makes a very entertaining story that has certainly kept me interested.
In a nutshell a very good yarn told by an excellent author!