Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Magic Wagon

The Magic Wagon is an important book in the Joe Lansdale bibliography. In the author’s own words, it is where he first found his voice. And a distinctive voice it is.
In East Texas in the early 20th Century a young man named Buster Fogg finds himself alone after his family is wiped out by a tornado. He is taken in by a traveling medicine show, joining a bizarre surrogate family which includes Billy Bob the trick shot artist, Albert, an ex-slave, and Rot Toe the wrestling chimpanzee. Along the way, they acquire the mummified corpse of Wild Bill Hickok, who Billy Bob thinks is his real father. This obsession leads the group into a climactic showdown in the town of Mud Creek.
As always, Lansdale has a gift for vivid description and humorous, realistic dialogue. The short novel propels itself along at a brisk pace. Lansdale has never written anything that was not worth reading, and he’s at the top (and beginning) of his form here.

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