I (heart) Joe R. Lansdale

Happy Halloween, guys and ghouls.

For your Halloween present, I’m giving all of you an author new to me: Joe R. Lansdale.

(note: this is one of my very rare reviews)

I first encountered Joe R. Lansdale in that used bookstore I showed you pictures of a while back. I picked up Mucho Mojo out of the mystery section because the name rang a bell, but darn if I could remember why.
At the bottom of a stack of books I’d bought at the same time, all of which turned out to be my typical “open and toss”,  gloomy, lonely, unable to sleep, wracked with anxiety (do you feel sorry for me yet? heh-heh!) I opened up that Mucho Mojo at midnight and finished it at five a.m. Serious.

Joe Landsale has written about eleventy-billion books, won about 12 billion awards–including the Bram Stoker award–and yet, knowing that I was unfamiliar with his work, couldn’t place why his name was familiar to me.

Mucho Mojo is the second in this series he does featuring Hap and Leonard. The very elementary synopsis is: two buddies stumble into and solve a local mystery.

There are three things I love about reading a Joe Lansdale book:

1) most importantly, the writing flows so effortlessly from the page and into my eyes and carries me away from this place. It’s that rare experience of starting to read and being unable to stop.

2) he doesn’t shy away from racial issues, prejudice, civil rights, theology. He is honest, blunt, brutal, and he lets people in  all their wretchedness be the scariest thing in the world. I had never encountered anything like this before. You need to read it for yourself because I don’t think I can give it justice. It’s not guilt inducing or lectury. The characters discuss their differences in opinion and experiences, and thus Lansdale opens up my mind to new information and yet the characters are not talking heads, vehicles for Lansdale’s soapbox. The characters are gripping and real people, and their opinions are their own.

I have found that many authors write in a way that shows to me that they’re afraid to offend anyone, or a group of people. All peoples can be assholes, and I found that Joe Lansdale’s novels don’t allow us to feel sorry for A Person just because they are [insert stereotype here]. Hap is a 40 year old white guy. Leonard is African American and gay. They are inseparable, the best of best friends. Leonard has troubles with the local populace, but so does Hap, for example, walking into a bar where he is very not welcome.

Maybe I read *too* much fantasy, but these characters really took on some issues that I find terrible and frightening. Oh, and the house next door is a crack house. I’m reading this and thinking, “Gosh, here’s an author who can discuss these issues without shying away from the dark corners and also not be an ass burdened with his own superiority complex.”

2.5) the New Word quote I posted last night, a quote from The Bottoms, is an example of exactly how detailed he can get, looking into those dark corners. It has been my reading experience that authors will cover the event described in that quote with some vague “a bad thing happened”.

3) he’s funny! These books would be unbearable if he didn’t lighten the action with humor. The people say funny things, and they get into funny situational humor, too. The banter between Hap and Leonard had me rolling.

4) Lansdale can change his narration style to suit the novel he’s writing. The one I’m TAKING TIME AWAY FROM READING IN ORDER TO SPEND AN HOUR ON THIS POST FOR YOU, DEAR READER is The Bottoms, a story that takes place in 1933 east Texas. The book is narrated in first person, with a dialect and grammar of someone from that time and place.

(that was four things)

Where had I heard his name before? Oh, YEAH! Subterranean Press has a crush on Joe R. Lansdale and they’ve published several of his novels in their super nice deluxe editions.

This, for example, is some of his situational humor:

“Another staple of Marvel Creek was a band of roving hogs that belonged to Old Man Crittendon.

“The hogs were tolerated most of the time, but once a big one got after Mrs. Owens and chased her down West all the way into her house. Being as how she was a little on the fat side, the general talk of the men around town — who didn’t care much for Mrs. Owens because she was a Yankee and apt to remind folks constantly that the North won the war — named this momentous event The Race of Two Hogs.

“Anyway, Mrs. Owens’s husband, Jason, who wore a beard and dressed in stiff clothes, shot the hog on his front porch with a shotgun, but not before he blew off the porch steps, knocked down a support post, and dropped the roof on the hog and himself. The hog recovered, Mr. Owens didn’t.”

from The Bottoms, Joe R. Lansdale


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