Review of Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale – on SFSignal

My review of Edge of Dark Water by fellow Texan and martial artist Joe R. Lansdale is up on SFSignal.

An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY: Utilizing the East Texas setting he knows so well, Lansdale repeats the master storytelling displayed in one of my all-time faves, The Bottoms, with this genre-bending tale of escape and hope. Lansdale integrates pieces of Homer, Mark Twain and other influences, but it is his ability to make the characters, the setting and extraordinary circumstances come to life that makes this a great read.

MY RATING: 

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Almost an adult, Sue Ellen is trapped in East Texas with an abusive stepfather and a mother who lives in a drunken haze. A friend’s murder and the discovery of her hidden stash of cash set Sue Ellen and her friends, Terry and Jinx, on an escape down-river, trying to leave their past and running from people and legendary killers who would take their new found cash, their freedom and their lives.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Lots of people know how to write a book, Lansdale knows how to tell a story. The characters, the setting, the prejudices of the time period and the legendary “do they really exist” killers all flow together into a can’t-put-it-down tale.
CONS: Strikingly similar to The Bottoms †not necessarily a con, but some scenes seemed familiar.
BOTTOM LINE: Lansdale often gets classified as a “Horror Author” and that kept me away from his stories for a long time. But his writing flows so well, it’s like we’re sitting drinking tequila swapping tales…with him always winning the storytelling contest. Edge of Dark Water is difficult book to confine into a single genre (the best kind!) but it’s an enjoyable read, ranking close to The Bottoms as Lansdale’s best.

 

The Bottoms, Joe Lansdale’s Edgar Award winning novel from 2000, is one of my favorite stories of all time. The East Texas setting, the Depression era time period, the characterizations, the prejudice…all flowed together into exactly what a novel should be…a story told by a master storyteller in a way that sounds like he’s sitting right across from you. These pieces made the “horror” aspect of a traveling serial killer blend right in to the background, making it just another part of the story.

Lansdale’s latest, Edge of Dark Water, has a lot of the same characteristics as The Bottoms. The setting of East Texas near the Sabine River is similar, and some of the scenes (escaping through the thorns and brambles, for example) seemed familiar. It’s is told from the perspective of Sue Ellen, a teenager, almost a woman, who lives an edge-of-poverty existence dodging her drunken step-father’s roving hands. Her mother is hooked on a cure-all that keeps her in a dazed stupor. Sue Ellen’s release are her friends: Terry, a well-schooled young man most suspect of being a “sissy” with stepfather issues of his own; Jinx, a black girl with good parents whose father travels north frequently to get a good paying job; and May Lynn, a beautiful young lady who dreams of going to Hollywood. When they pull May Lynn’s body out of the river while fishing (found with a sewing machine tied to her legs to hold her down), Sue Ellen’s world changes, and changes quickly. Terry wants to take May Lynn’s ashes and spread them over Hollywood. And when they stumble upon a map of May Lynn’s which leads to a stash of cash apparently stolen by her larcenous brother (now deceased), they have the means to not only escape the lives they currently detest, but honor May Lynn as well.

Read the full review here.

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