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Joe Lansdale on the Stories that Inspired The Thicket

I grew up on Western movies and films. In the fifties and sixties they were as thick at the theater and on television as fleas on a stray dog. Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, Cheyenne, Maverick, and so many others. Another big influence were the stories my father and mother told about the Western era; they were older parents when I was born, so their experiences were different than the parents of my friends.The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

My grandmother who died in the 1980s at nearly a hundred years old had seen Buffalo Bill as a child and remembered it vividly. She had traveled to Texas by covered wagon, and if memory serves me, her folks had been involved in the Oklahoma land rush, but gave it up and came to Texas. She had seen Indian encampments, had run-ins with wild animals, and like my father and mother, had relatives who had fought in the Civil War. My grandfather was a horse trader and had two families, one on either side of the Ozarks, neither aware of the other until the 1970s when we met my mother’s half sister, who looked almost exactly like my mother. Now there’s a story.

My family were storytellers, and one of my fondest memories was them sitting under a tree telling stories, and me soaking it all up like soft ground under a good rain. I’m still mining those stories. There were also tales about famous outlaws they had heard and passed on to me, about country living, and day to day business. While the other kids chased fireflies, I kept coming back to sit under the tree and listen. I loved it far more then childish games, and boy, am I glad I did. I’ve made a living at it.

Later, in the seventies, I became interested in Western fiction, not just films, stories, and history. Before that, I read all manner of fiction, but very little Western fiction, and most of what I had read didn’t move me. I am still that way about Western fiction. When I like it I’m absolutely bonkers for it, but when I don’t, it leaves me as cold as a polar bear’s toes. I read The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout, True Grit by Charles Portis, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, Last Reveille by David Morrell, and a very underrated novel, The White Buffalo by Richard Sayles. Later I read Wild Times by Brian Garfield, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and certainly Alan Le May’s novel, The Searchers. I suppose Twain had something to do with it, as he haunts me like a happy ghost in so many things I write. But it was my main intention to tell a story the way my folks told stories, with pacing and detail and interesting asides. Toss in adventure and action, and you have all of the influences for The Thicket.

Writing it was like a satisfying primal scream. I hope you’ll love reading it.

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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.