Review: ‘Edge of Dark Water’ by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale speaks about & signs 'Edge of Dark Water' here at BookPeople Thurs 4/5, 7p.

It’s always a thrill to get the latest Joe R. Lansdale book. He is one of the most most entertaining and engaging authors out there with a style all his own. Like Elmore Leonard, even his “weaker” books outshine the complete works of others. At his best, a Lansdale book can be a religious experience. Get ready to see the light with his latest, Edge Of Dark Water.

The book is reminiscent of his coming of age tales The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line, with a darker tone. It begins when Sue Ellen, a sixteen year old in Depression era Texas, finds her friend May Lynn’s body in the Sabine River tied to a sewing machine. She tells her two other pals, Jinx and Terry, about it. Since all three see no future where they are, they decide to burn May Lynn’s body, go down river on a raft with her ashes, get a ride to Hollywood, and deliver the remains to the town where she planned to be a movie star. At the last minute Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother forces her daughter to take her along. To finance the trip they come across money hidden from a bank robbery that put a crooked constable and his demented henchmen, Skunk, on their trail.

The journey structure is perfect for Lansdale. His loose narrative style can flow with ease. The river trip allows his characters to breath and talk in that dialogue that only he can create. It also allows him to throw in anything and anyone, like a bitter, old, pistol waving woman who grew up in the Civil War. We travel through a dusk world that is mainly reality, with a touch of harsh enchantments, and punch of what can only be described as Lansdale. There is a point the book reaches where the style becomes an important part of the substance. Picture Huckleberry Finn crossed with the film Night Of The Hunter.

Edge Of Dark Water has Joe R. Lansdales’ talents singing in harmony. He is able to to employ his talent for dark satire and deliver dialogue that his both pointed and realistic. He uses an unsentimental eye and still delivers a work of true emotion. It’s easy to tell that he’s a Mark Twain fan. That said, I think Mr. Clemens, himself, would love this particular ride down the river.

We’ll welcome Joe Lansdale and his daughter Kasey, who will perform a few songs, to BookPeople to speak about & sign his new book on Thursday, April 5, 7p.

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