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On Joe Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water

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. Continue reading “On Joe Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water”

Bad Dog

Listen to Wisdom

A recent, controversial  New York Times article by Stanley Fish uses the results of a 2011 psychological study to argue readers and viewers experience no negative effects from knowing the ending of a story in advance. We asked a few of our friends what they thought–check back regularly today for their responses.

This is the silliest defense for spoiling stories for those of us who don’t want them spoiled that I have ever heard. I have spoiled, accidently, a film and I was almost lynched. They were right. If it’s done to me, I feel the same. This is a case where the writer messed up and spends a new column justifying it instead of just saying, you know, I should have thought that through. There may be those who read the last page of a book, or like the previews for films to be so precise it lets them know how it’s going to turn out, but surprise has a great place, and most of us prefer it, and if we prefer not to have things spoiled for us, a spoiler alert is a nice warning to us who would prefer not to know.  Bad journalist. Bad, dog.

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.

Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER, called by the Boston Globe “a terrific read [with] an unforgettable cast of characters,” is now available in bookstores everywhere.

The Lineup: Weekly Links

Contrasted ConfinementThe Boston Globe ran what is quite possibly the best review of Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER we’ve ever read. Reviewer Hallie Ephron, noting the novel’s “unforgettable characters” proclaims that this “terrific read” brings to mind “memories of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and even As I Lay Dying with its journey to lay a soul to rest.” Ephron ends her amazing rave with this zinger: “When I reached the final page, something happened that I can’t remember ever happening with a book I’ve read for a review. I wanted to read it again.” Many congratulations, Joe!

Kirkus also has weighed in with high praise for Lansdale’s newest, calling the novel “a highly entertaining tour de force.”

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review also had high praise for DARK WATER, calling the novel: “A charming Gothic tale….as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain.” And don’t miss the New York Times‘ amazing spotlight on Joe’s illustrious career as well.

Excited for Marcia Clark upcoming second Rachel Knight thriller GUILT BY DEGREES? Don’t miss the $0.99 digital short IF I’M DEAD, featuring the feisty LA prosecutor and the characters you’ve grown to love from Clark’s nationally bestselling debut GUILT BY ASSOCIATION.

We happen to be pretty big Josh Whedon fans at Mulholland Books, caught the critically acclaimed horror-thriller-with-a-twist CABIN IN THE WOODS this weekend and loved it. Did you catch it? What did you think?

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.

The Lineup: Edge of Dark Water Edition

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!

Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Landale, Part II

NsameMissed Part I? Read it here.

Joe Lansdale: It changed my life. Reading books and going to libraries. I mean we have so much that’s online now, but when I was growing up and you were growing up, libraries were very import, especially if you couldn’t afford books. And a lot of times I couldn’t. So I would spend a tremendous amount of time in libraries and books like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird all changed my life, and not just in the way of teaching you certain things and reinforcing things you were being taught.

But there was a kind of magic and beauty and almost mythological element to those books, and I know that what I was striving for to some extent was to give this sort of excitement and suspense and to talk about the things that you and I have been talking about, but also bring this sort of beauty and magic to things that were sort of dark and enchanting at the same time.

Andrew Vachss: How big was the library that you had access to as a child?

JL: The original was a book mobile, and you know how big a book mobile is. It was essentially a little bus or van that came around that had books and you’d let kids come in one or two at a time and walk down the aisles and check them out, and then it came back a week or two later, whatever the time was, and then you returned that book and got another one.

And so that was my first one, and the second one was a library that at the time I thought was big. I mean I look at it now and I know it wasn’t. But I read every book in there that I possibly had an interest in, and then I went to the Gladewater Lot Library, which was a little bigger. But to me, I read anything that I could get my hands on. I mean if I found books in the garbage or if I found magazines . . . you know my mom picked up things for me when she could. But the original thing was the size of a small van.

Continue reading “Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Landale, Part II”

Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Lansdale

mJoe Lansdale: First of all, I love this new book, That’s How I Roll, by Andrew. And I was telling him this, in an earlier conversation, that I never read any of his books so terrifically well constructed. They all are, but man, this was is like a bomb builder putting something together very, very carefully, because if you go just a little to the left or right or cross the wrong wire, the whole thing blows.

And the way that this is put together also makes it difficult to talk too directly about it because if you pull one wire here you blow the whole thing, so I got to be very, very careful about that. But I think that everything you do well is in this book, Andrew. I believe that, not only the writing—Andrew always says the writing is all right—but that’s bull, he’s a terrific stylist, he’s a beautiful stylist. And if you doubt that, you should also read his poetry; he also writes Haikus that are just beautiful, and this, everything that he writes to me is like an extended Haiku.

This is an example of that—where it’s just beautifully constructed. And I think a lot of people will say it’s grim, and it is grim. But it’s also beautiful.  I would say—not to give anything away—I would say when you get to the end you have it come to—this grim story—you actually have it come to be an uplifting story. And I think that’s important, because that’s a part of Andrew’s life, because here’s a guy who has actually changed the laws to protect children. Not just one or two, he’s changed the very view of how people look at child abuse. You see it everywhere in the air now. But I’ve now Andrew for many, many years, and I know that when he first started trying to make people aware that this was going on, and the struggle about it, it wasn’t received that way. Am I right, Andrew?

Andrew Vachss: You could not be more right.

JL: I know you don’t want to brag about yourself, I’ll do the bragging for you.

AV:  I’m not bragging.

JL: But them is the facts Jack, right?

AV: Oh, yes. Continue reading “Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Lansdale”

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”

The Lineup: Weekly Links

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.

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.

2

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”