Monday, April 16, 2012

Edge of Dark Water

Joe Lansdale's latest novel, Edge of Dark Water, is out, and if you are fan, you probably already know and have it. It ain't Hap and Leonard, but it is primo Lansdale, and nobody writes quite like he does. You should get it and read it. We are talking swamp-noir, and you will feel the heat and chiggers, smell the mold, and slosh along in the Sabine, looking over your shoulder for the boogeyman ...

The plot involves a dead girl dredged up from the water, wired to a sewing machine; three teenagers, who are white trash, po' black, and in-the-closet gay who were the dead girl's friends; loot from a stolen robbery; a cast of grubby characters who probably have relatives in jars at the local University. It gets into Huck Finn meets Deliverance territory, and who did what to whom gets unraveled, though that's only the smallest part of the tale. This isn't a whodunnit, it's all about atmosphere and character and what it might have been, out where the sun comes up twixt you and town ...

Joe spins a great story as he always does.

There is one caveat, and it's not a bad thing, merely one you should know. When you pick up a novel, the default expectation is that the setting is contemporaneous with now. If it is an obvious science fiction or fantasy, you know it could be past or future. If it is labeled historical, same-same. This book doesn't offer any pointers in the early section. It's out in the swamps, and it could be today or eighty years past. I think I understand why he did this, but it is a bit of a frown-maker.

As it happens, the date is never mentioned that I noticed, but it becomes apparent from the technology or lack thereof, that we are talking about a while ago. Eventually, there are characters who tell a story about fleeing the Oklahoma dust bowl that narrows it down, so I make it we are talking somewhere in the late 1930's, to maybe as early as 1940 or so. Maybe beyond that, but that revelation is well into the story.

Maybe it shouldn't matter, but if you are looking for internet connections and references to Harry Potter and you don't see them, you start to wonder: How far out in the country can they possibly be? Because I don't think you can get that far from town in this country today. 

Speaking as somebody who just came back from a trip to Louisiana, and even there, the swamps of which allow cell phones and TV dishes to go with the gators.

Otherwise, as always, when you are in Lansdale's world, you are in the hands of a master. 


steve-vh said...

thanks for the recommendation. Ever since you did, I've loved his stuff.

steve-vh said...

Not to be confused with "pirates of dark water"?