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 MulhollandBooks.com, 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!

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 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 112013
 
Mulholland Books: Where did you come up with the idea of Skunk? Were you inspired by any particular characters from the canon? Do you have a favorite bounty-hunter character from other novels or flms?
Joe Lansdale: Skunk is that bad dream that is coming after you and will not stop; a juggernaut. He is mortality and death, a creeping doom that all of us suspect is waiting somewhere around the corner, or under the bed, in the night shadows. He is like an elemental, a nightmare that just might be there when you wake up. He is every dark thing I have ever imagined.
Sep 122012
 

The e-book Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, the novel Stanley Kubrick deemed “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered,” is on sale for just $2.99 for the Nook, Kindle, and the iBookstore. Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to one of the great classics of twentieth century crime fiction–at a bargain price, and including an intro from Stephen King.

Looking for even more of an introduction? Check out the below essay on Thompson from our very own Joe R. Lansdale.

Jim Thompson has been called a dime store Dostoevsky, but an oil field Faulkner might be more accurate. He wrote not only about the common man, he wrote like the common man, with words full of raw truth mixed with sweet and sticky lies; wicked stories written with a glass of whisky at his elbow.

I had never heard of Jim Thompson growing up. And this surprises me. I read all manner of novels by all manner of writers, and a writer like Thompson was just my meat, but it wasn’t until Stephen King commented on him, that he hit my radar.

Not long after that, I saw Thompson’s work everywhere, and I dove in. As a fellow Texan, same as a I had with the work of Robert E. Howard, another Texan, I recognized people I knew. Howard gussied them up in loin cloths and gave them swords, made them melancholy heroes, but Thompson’s characters were contemporary, and though melancholy for the most part, were considerably short on heroics. They were the dregs of society; little people with dreams too large for them to hold; dreams they drove all over the highways of their ambitions like a drunk at the wheel of a muscle car with bad tires.

There is no one quite like Thompson in low or high literature. He was his own man, and stories like THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, and, well pretty much everything he ever wrote, are as unique as the pattern of a snow flake. They are his snow flakes, and they are soiled and stink of cheap liquor, but you will find no other like him. Many have tried to imitate him, but have only brought the literary equivalent of loud horns and dirty laundry to the game.

Thompson was his own man. Sad and dark, oozing rotten sex and rotten dreams, all of it touched with a kind cheap carnival atmosphere; the kind where the bolts on the rides shake and it‘s best to keep your hand on your wallet. A writer primarily confined to the literary back alleys of cheap paperbacks written in bursts as dynamic as the spewing of an oil gusher.

He was, for better or worse, the great and unique, Jim Thompson.

Joe R. Lansdale

Nacogdoches, Texas

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than a dozen novels, including THE BOTTOMS, A FINE DARK LINE, and LEATHER MAIDEN. He has received the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Edgar Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, and eight Bram Stoker Awards. He lives with his family in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mulholland Books will publish his next novel, EDGE OF DARK WATER, in March 2012.

Over the next year, Mulholland Books will be publishing Jim Thompson’s entire body of work in e-book format for the first time. THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, A SWELL-LOOKING BABE and THE NOTHING MAN are now available–look for the next batch on Christmas Day.

Apr 112012
 
My latest column for the Los Angeles Review of Books was published last week. The article was called, "The Criminal Kind: Voyeuristic Pleasures." Here are the books I reviewed:

Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby
"At their best, crime novels provide more than the voyeuristic pleasure of looking in on a lifestyle that us law-abiding citizens will never know first-hand: they offer a refractive glance back on our own world. In her own way, Crissa Stone is a modern-day hero for an America still recovering from the economic collapse. There’s an honesty and integrity to her work ethic that separates her from the fold."
And She Was by Alison Gaylin
"A moody, densely layered mystery whose emotional notes are as affecting as the plot points are enthralling. Gaylin excels at getting us into her protagonist’s complex (and crowded) mind."
Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
"Imagine the literary love child of Carson McCullers and William Faulkner, but way more twisted, with a penchant for dismemberment, and a hell of a lot funnier. That’s Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water in a nutshell."
The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson
"Don’t let the exotic Peruvian backdrop fool you: this is in no way a picturesque walk in the park — or through the Incan ruins, as the case may be. From its doom-laden opening line (“Standing at the edge of the mountain, I imagined what it would feel like to let go”) to its unexpectedly savage finale, The Next One to Fall is driven by the noir impulse towards oblivion."
Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm
"Dead Harvest is a wild and unpredictable ride that only gets more bold as the narrative unfurls, and now that the foundation for the series is set, I’m excited to see what hurdles Holm has set for Thornton in the sequel, The Wrong Goodbye, already slated for October 2012."
Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg
"What saves the book from becoming an orgy of excess, however, is Silverberg’s stylistic restraint, and his attention to detail and craft. Blood on the Mink is by no means as extreme as something by Mickey Spillane. Silverberg’s style, at least here, is more reminiscent of the cool precision of a Peter Rabe. When it comes to action, there’s a remarkable balance of clarity and brute force to his choreography"
Mar 292012
 

Contrasted ConfinementHoping to discover more about EDGE OF DARK WATER and Joe’s signature style, or find fresh ways to talk up the novel with friends and fellow readers? We’ve got you covered!

You could try the recent reviews–in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio offered high praise for Joe R. Lansdale’s newest, proclaiming EDGE OF DARK WATER: “A charming Gothic tale….as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain.” At New York Journal of Books, Sam Millar raves that EDGE OF DARK WATER ”has all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come.”

Prefer your Youtube account? With Joe’s help and including on-location footage of the setting of his novel and the East Texas region that gives his work such vibrancy, we’ve put together two video clips about Joe’s newest and his inspirations:

More audio-inclined? Don’t miss these killer podcasts that feature some of Joe’s contributions to the storytelling tradition:

The Bomb:

Write Something:

East Texas Christmas:

And if you’re new to the site this week, don’t miss Dan Simmons’ essay that compares and contrasts EDGE OF DARK WATER to the classic that’s come up so often in reviews of the novel, Joe Lansdale and Andrews Vachss’ epic conversation on EDGE OF DARK WATER and Vachss’ THAT’S HOW I ROLL (Part I and Part II), and our own conversation with Lansdale (Part I and Part II).

Share away!

Mar 212012
 

Contrasted Confinement

At The Kill Zone, Joe Moore has an insightful post about the pros and cons of using a pen name that’s definitely worth your time.

The Rap Sheet has a great guest post from Brad Parks on the inspiration for his newest novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

Michael Robotham’s newest Joe O’Loughlin thriller BLEED FOR ME is in bookstores now and continues to garner fantastic praise. Marilyn Stasio reviewed the novel in The New York Times Book Review, writing that “Robotham writes with grave tenderness about unhappy people caught in terrible situations…” CBS News ran a great interview with Robotham on Author Talk. And don’t miss this great Salon review, or online raves from Spinetingler, Murder By TypeAuntie M Writes, and the Murder by the Book Mystery Blog.

Bloggers are also loving Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER, which is working its way into bookstores across the country as its March 27th publication date approaches. But don’t take our word for it–check out reviews from Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine, Demon TheoryMystery Scene, and B&N’s Ransom Notes.

Looking for some great Spring reads to look forward to? We can’t wait until Nick Santora’s amazing FIFTEEN DIGITS hits bookstores next month. Bestsellers World’s review should certainly whet your appetite; Julie Moderson raves that “Nick Santora has a unique style of writing that I can only compare to John Grisham or Harlan Coben or a wonderful combination of both.” Marcia Clark’s GUILT BY DEGREES, coming in May, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which says: “Clark humanizes her tough lead, and gets the mixture of action and investigative legwork just right, more than making the case for a long life for this West Coast analogue to Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper.”

Are you seeing The Hunger Games this weekend?

And hot dang–Seth Grahame-Smith fans everywhere take notice:

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at mulhollandbooks@hbgusa.com or DM us on Twitter.

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