The endlessly inventive mind of Joe R. Lansdale whips up yet another batch of stories to amaze, surprise, and entertain you. His new offering covers a lot of territory, producing what may be his best short story collection yet. One tale concerns an East Texas mule race in the early 1900s that proves to be an unexpected turning point and learning experience for the main character, a lifelong loser. It also chronicles the unusual circumstances of the race, which include a friendship between a rare white mule that can run like the wind, and his friend, a loyal, spotted pig. Another tale drops us into the disturbed mind of a mass murderer and his friendship with the shadows. Two others stories reintroduce us to the supernatural adventures of Reverend Rains, the flawed hero from Lansdale's cult favorite novel, Dead in the West. Here ghouls prowl and werewolves howl. There's a poetic collaboration with Melissa Mia Hall about the nature of loneliness and loss that echoes back to science fiction stories of an earlier time, as well as a famous, award winning novella reprinted here for the first time in several years about a clutch of unusual crime solvers. Read about a world where the dead almost rule, and venture into an alternate universe that is the background for perhaps the strangest tale of all, an adventure concerning an earnest and horny steam shovel named Bill, and his challenge to do the right thing at all costs. It's the usual wild and crowd pleasing display of what has become a subgenre of modern literature as only Joe R. Lansdale can present it: Tales Lansdalien. Welcome to his world.
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Never one to remain hemmed in by a specific genre, Lansdale runs the gamut of fanciful motifs from pure horror to whimsical fantasy in his new story collection. Lansdale's world is by turns darkly apocalyptic or comically surreal, and its inhabitants are loners, losers, and mass murderers. In the title story, Lansdale steps inside the mind of Charles Whitman, the 1966 University of Texas tower sniper, to expose his inner demons. In "The Long Dead Day," the survivor of a spreading plague faces the grim duty of dispatching his infected wife and daughter. Lansdale is equally at home with wisecracking humor as with spine-chilling terror. In the sardonic "The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-out Found in a Harlequin Romance," a down-on-his-luck would-be writer finds absurdity and inspiration in a disquieting discovery folded inside a used romance novel. Meanwhile, "Bill, the Steam Shovel" recounts the adventures of a sentient earthmover. Whatever creative tricks Lansdale pulls out of his sleeve, his writing never fails to deliver an emotional kick while it stirs the imagination. Carl Hays
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Lansdale's restlessness with the conventions of any one genre is proved once again by this marvelously mixed collection whose nine stories provoke responses ranging from cold chills to gut-busting belly laughs. The unsettling title tale puts the reader inside the cobwebbed mind of a mass murderer, who cloaks the truth of the business he's about in eerily self-deceiving metaphors. "White Mule, Spotted Pig," about a redneck's antic efforts to capture and race a legendary wild white mule, reads like a contemporary tall tale out of Mark Twain's Calaveras County. Two period pieces feature Jebidiah Rains, the author's gunslinging preacher from his novel Dead in the West: "Deadman's Road" pits Rains against a nightmarish walking corpse animated by a live hornet's nest in its chest, while "The Gentleman's Hotel" has Rains battling a horror from the prehistoric past that has turned its small corner of the southwest into an arid ghost town. Laconic, ghoulish and often outrageously bawdy, these stories are never less than solid entertainment. (Apr.)
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