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An Interview with Joe R. Lansdale: Part II

Joe R. Lansdale, whose acclaimed new novel EDGE OF DARK WATER caused New York Journal of Books to proclaim it has “all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come,” recently took some time out of his day to talk with Mulholland Books about his inspirations and writing process while his novel works its way into bookstores across the country.

Missed Part I? Read it here.

Did you choose Hollywood as the characters’ destination for reasons other than May’s ambitions for her life? What do you think a place like Hollywood represent to people in Depression Era, small East Texas towns like the one in which EDGE OF DARK WATER is set? Did you have something in mind for what Hollywood represented for May Lynn, specifically?

Hollywood, especially then, the thirties, was one of those far away places that seemed to offer something special. It was a place someone could go to and become something new and shiny and famous. Or at least that was the thought. It was like Oz. A magical place.

It was a dream destination; it was very early on part of our American myth. I think for May Lynn it was that and more. It was a possible escape from poverty and the possibility of maybe working in a café and then becoming a wife and mother. Not bad ambitious, necessarily. But they weren’t good ambitions for her; she felt she was something special, and that there was a magic cloak out there in Hollywood somewhere waiting to be tossed over her shoulders.

Speaking of Hollywood, a few of your stories have been adapted for television and film, including the novella Bubba Ho-Tep, which was adapted into the cult classic film of the same name starring Bruce Campbell. Can you tell us a little about how it feels to see your writing transformed for the screen? Continue reading “An Interview with Joe R. Lansdale: Part II”

A Conversation with Joe Lansdale: Part I

Joe R. Lansdale’s eagerly anticipated novel EDGE OF DARK WATER, which has already received tremendous praise and was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of its top picks of the Spring 2012, is working its way into bookstore across the country now.

Joe recently took some time out of his day to take part in a conversation with Mulholland Books about his acclaimed new novel. Start reading Part I below.

EDGE OF DARK WATER is set during the Depression Era. How much does the time period influence the story? What do you enjoy most about writing in earlier times? What’s most difficult about it for you?

The Great Depression was the engine for the story. I didn’t make a point of identifying the era, I just sort of let the story determine that gradually with clues the reader would pick up on. I think I originally wrote it with a year in mind, and slipped it in, but when I started rereading it, I took that out. I thought it stood on it’s on, and the time period would be evident, and that if it wasn’t it would stand on it’s on without it. But I think it’s pretty clear. I grew up on stories about the Great Depression because my father and mother were born at the turn of the twentieth century. My father in 1909, my mother in 1914, I believe.

My dad was in his early forties when I was born and my mother in her late thirties, so they had reached their mature years during the Great Depression. My father had ridden the rails to go from town to town to compete in boxing and wrestling matches at fairs. It wasn’t his primary way of making a living, but it was something he did because he needed the money, and he enjoyed it. For the record, those kinds of wrestling matches led to the invention of what is known as pro-wrestling today. Only when my dad did it, the outcome was not ordained.

I remember hearing stories about people being  poor and so desperate. My mother said once they only had onions to eat, for a week or so. And my father told me about some relatives of theirs that were so hungry they ate clay, craving the minerals, I suspect. A lot of my relatives had gone through the Great Depression, and it impacted them. They saved everything, and were very careful with food, cautious about being wasteful. They saved string and stubs of pencils and rubber bands, you name it. Now and again I’ve seen those TV episodes of things like HOARDERS, and thought, well, I can see why they saved that piece of cloth. It can be reused. And those shoes aren’t so bad. You could wear them to work in the yard; like I’m going to work in the yard. But the bottom line is growing up when they did, and then me growing up with them, and knowing what they had been through, it had its impact.

People think times are hard now, and it certainly is for some, but on the whole, not like it was then. Those were tough times and our country was on the brink. It just barely survived. That said, I did enjoy writing about that era because I feel such a kinship to it, having grown up hearing about it all my life. I think it’s more interesting to think about and write about than to live it, though it might be interesting to have lived through it. Continue reading “A Conversation with Joe Lansdale: Part I”

Continue Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER

Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER is now on its way to bookstores around the country…but we’re so excited to be publishing this amazing book, we’ve decided to share part of it with you now. Read on for more of the novel that had Dan Simmons raving: “the strongest, truest, and most pitch-perfect narration since Huck Finn’s….real genius….a masterpiece.”

Missed the first excerpt? Start reading here.

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May Lynn didn’t have a mama anymore, cause her mama had drowned herself in the Sabine River. She had gone down with some laundry to soak, and instead wrapped a shirt around her head and walked in until the water went over her. When she came up, she wasn’t alive anymore, but she still had that shirt around her noggin.

May Lynn’s daddy was someone who only came home when he got tired of being any other place. We didn’t even know if he knew his daughter was missing. May Lynn used to say after her mama drowned herself her daddy was never the same. Said she figured it was because the laundry around her mother’s head had been his favorite snap-pocket shirt. That’s true love for you. Worse, her brother, Jake, who she was close to, was dead as of a short time back, and there wasn’t even a family dog to miss her.

The day after we found her, May Lynn was boxed up in a cheap coffin and buried on a warm morning in the pauper section of the Marvel Creek Cemetery next to a dried patch of weeds with seed ticks clinging to them, and I suspect some chiggers too small to see. Her mother and brother were buried in the same graveyard, but they hadn’t ended up next to one another. Up the hill was where the people with money lay. Down here was the free dirt, and even if you was kin to someone, you got scattered—you went in anyplace where there was room to dig a hole. I’d heard there was many a grave on top of another, for need of space.

There were oaks and elms to shade the rest of the graveyard, but May Lynn’s section was a hot stretch of dirt with a bunch of washed-down mounds, a few with markers. Some of the markers were little sticks. Names had once been written on them, but they had been washed white by the sun and rain.

The constable ruled on matters by saying she had been killed by a person or persons unknown, which was something I could have figured out for him. He said it was most likely a drifter or drifters who had come upon her by the river. I guess they had been carrying a sewing machine under their arm. Continue reading “Continue Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER”

Start Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water

Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER will be in bookstores later this month…but we’re so excited to be publishing this amazing book, we’ve decided to share part of it with you now. Read on for one of the best first sentences you’ll ever read, the beginning of the novel that had Dan Simmons raving: “the strongest, truest, and most pitch-perfect narration since Huck Finn’s….real genius….a masterpiece.”

 

Part One

Of Ash and Dreams

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That summer, Daddy went from telephoning and dynamiting fish to poisoning them with green walnuts. The dynamite was messy, and a couple years before he’d somehow got two fingers blown off, and the side of his face had a burn spot that at first glance looked like a lipstick kiss and at second glance looked like some kind of rash.

Telephoning for fish worked all right, though not as good as dynamite, but Daddy didn’t like cranking that telephone to hot up the wire that went into the water to ’lectrocute the fish. He said he was always afraid one of the little colored boys that lived up from us might be out there swimming and get a dose of ’lectricity that would kill him deader than a cypress stump, or at best do something to his brain and make him retarded as his cousin Ronnie, who didn’t have enough sense to get in out of the rain and might hesitate in a hailstorm.

My grandma, the nasty old bag, who, fortunately, is dead now, claimed Daddy has what she called the Sight. She said he was gifted and could see the future some. I reckon if that was so, he’d have thought ahead enough not to get drunk when he was handling explosives and got his fingers blown off.

And I hadn’t ever seen that much sympathy from him concerning colored folk, so I didn’t buy his excuse for not cranking the phone. He didn’t like my friend Jinx Smith, who was colored, and he tried to make out we was better than her and her family, even though they had a small but clean house, and we had a large dirty house with a sagging porch and the chimney propped up on one side with a two-by-four and there were a couple of hogs wallowing out holes in the yard. As for his cousin Ronnie, I don’t think Daddy cared for him one way or the other, and often made fun of him and imitated him by pretending to bang into walls and slobber about. Of course, when he was good and drunk, this wasn’t an imitation, just a similarity.

Then again, maybe Daddy could see the future, but was just too stupid to do anything about it. Continue reading “Start Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water”