Friday, February 5, 2010

The Best Of Joe R. Lansdale

Anyone who reads horror or any other literature of the fantastic knows who Joe Lansdale is, I assume. A colorful personality as well as a gifted writer, he has been at the forefront since his breakthrough in the 80s, with his novels reaching bestseller lists and his work being adapted into film (Bubba Ho-Tep). He has also conquered the medium of comic books, most notably with the controversial “weird western” Jonah Hex, and is much sought-after at conventions for reading his own work. (At Hypericon in 2008, I witnessed Mr. Lansdale reading his short story “Mr. Bear”, and his performance did much to elevate the piece. Lansdale is also the only writer I’ve ever been too nervous to speak to.)

Although he is more known in the public conscious due to his novels, die-hard fans believe it is in the short story format that he truly shines. There have been several collections of his work thus far, and now Tachyon Publications has come out with a career overview, suitably titled The Best of Joe R. Lansdale. This contains most of his best known works, including five which have won Stoker awards. I’m a persistent critic of the Stokers, but even I’m impressed by that.

Among the highlights of the collection:

“Godzilla’s Twelve-Step Program”, in which everyone’s favorite giant lizard tries to reform his city-stomping ways, a good showcase for Lansdale’s trademark sense of humor.

“The Big Blow”, set in Galveston during the devastating hurricane at the beginning of the 20th Century.

“Incident On And Off A Mountain Road”, which was adapted for the Showtime series Masters of Horror (one of their better episodes, in my opinion).

“On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks” which won the British Fantasy Award and has never been collected.

“The Night They Missed the Horror Show”, about two young rednecks in 1968 who decide not to attend a showing of Night of the Living Dead after they learn the male lead is a black man. This is a decision that has fateful consequences. I liked this well enough to list it as Number 4 on my list of The Best Horror Stories of All Time, and most who have commented feel it should be higher.

Lansdale fans will have quibbles with the selections (I was wondering where “Tight Little Stitches In A Dead Man’s Back” was, myself), but no matter, this is a great collection. Whether you are a die hard Lansdale fan and want to get most of his best work in one volume, or you are a neophyte to the Cult of Lansdale looking for a good staring point, this is the book for you. The promotional material I received with the book says it will be released in March, although Amazon lists it being released on February 15th (and also confusingly says it is now in stock). Either way, order it, pilgrim.


John Hornor said...

"The Big Blow" is probably my favorite story in the last decade. While not a horror story, the night I finished reading it and turned off the lights, I had a horrible dream of having to nail one of my children by the wrist to a post.

I'm ashamed to admit I've not read any of the others. I've got to buy this book.

The Doctor said...

"On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert..." was previously collected in By Bizarre Hands (1989 Dark Harvest, NEL for the UK ed.).

I agree about "Tight Little Stitches..." (also in BBH). Killer story, that, and easily one of my favourite Lansdales.

KentAllard said...

I shoulda known that about Cadillac Desert, but I went by the promo materials. I own By Bizarre Hands. sigh.

Rabid Fox said...

Oooh, this looks like it'd be a damned good read and a great way to get acquainted with his work. I'll have to keep on the lookout for this one. Thanks for the heads up.