It’s been some time since Joe R. Lansdale tackled a traditional western. The last time he wrote westerns without supernatural elements, Blood Dance and Texas Night Riders, it was in the early Eighties under pseudonyms for the paperback market. Of course even though there are no zombies or werewolves in this wild frontier, calling The Thicket “traditional” could be something of a stretch.
While there are echoes of True Grit, The Searchers, and Lonesome Dove, it quickly moves into Lansdale territory. When teenager Jack Parker leaves his pox ridden town with his sister and grandfather in turn of the century East Texas, they run across a bad bunch of outlaws who murder the old man and take the girl. The only help available to find his sister and bring the men to justice is Shorty, a sharp shooting dwarf bounty hunter, the son of ex-slaves with a penchant for drink, and a large hog who follows him. Along the way they pick up a young prostitute and a scarred lawman.
This is a perfect story for Lansdale. The loose plot fits his character driven style, while a race against time still provides tension. By using the classic American hero genre and populating it with his offbeat characters, the book explores the idea of heroics in a new way. It both subverts and embraces the western.
The Thicket is a great meeting of story and author. It will please both fans of westerns and fans Joe Lansdale. Hell, it’ll please anybody looking for a good yarn.
Joe Lansdale will be here at BookPeople this Thursday, September 12 at 7pm to speak about & sign copies of The Thicket. He’ll be joined by his daughter, Kasey Lansdale. Copies of The Thicket are now available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.