Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Lansdale.EdgeofDarkWater_HC-660x1024Let it be known, I love Joe R. Lansdale. I love his writing, I love his style, and there’s nothing this Texan has produced that I’ve read that I haven’t devoured like a fat kid left unaccompanied in a sweets shop.

So when the hardcover copy of Edge of Dark Water landed beneath my Christmas tree, my fiction erection grew, and I spent some time along…

Too much information?

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she’s dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.

Sue Ellen, May Lynn’s strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can’t become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.

Along with her friends Terry and Jinx, and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn’s remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on how hard growing up can really be.

– From Amazon.com

The story, set in Texas during the Great Depression, starts with the body of a pretty teen girl being dragged from a river, a sewing machine bound to her feet. And then it just keeps getting better. A trio of the girls’ friends, accompanied by one of their mothers, decides their friend’s dream of making it to Hollywood shouldn’t end because of her death. Rather, they take it upon themselves to dig her up, burn her body, collect the ashes, and head to Tinseltown to spread those ashes. Oh, and they’ll fund their little trip – down a river on a raft – by using money that had been hidden by the dead girl’s brother after he robbed a bank.

Throw into the mix a preacher who loses his congregation when he takes the quartet in after they take a break from their river trip, and abusive husband who wants his family back, a mean bitch of an old woman who takes travellers hostage so they can clean her house, a bounty hunter known as Skunk who won’t be stopped from getting the cash, and you’ve got the most bizarre, twisted, and “you just have to exercise your suspension of disbelief” books that’s been put to paper in recent years.

In any other writer’s hands, this tale would sink like a stone, but Lansdale – as he has showcased time and time again – has a finesse to his style that allows everything to seen plausible and downright hilarious. No other writer in our time has such a unique and beautiful voice as Lansdale.

Hey, I told you: I love this guy.

Dialogue that’s razor sharp, an amazing ability to reflect the regional dialect (if the “N-word” offends you, be prepared for no lack of racial slurs) and the crafting of likeable characters have long been a trademark for Lansdale, and he doesn’t disappoint with his latest, which, by the way, is soon coming to your local bookstore in paperback.

Like the title of the book, the dark waters of Lansdale’s latest can easily envelop readers, pull them down below the surface, and leave them disoriented with the beauty of a unique universe that many of us never have the opportunity to experience.

However, if you’ve never read Lansdale, I suggest starting elsewhere – any of his Hap and Leonard novels are goo stepping stones – as, like I noted, Edge of Dark Water throws so many “what the fuck?” moments at its characters that new readers may be put off by the much needed “suspension of disbelief.”

Regardless, if you’re a fan of crime, quirky humour, and lines of dialogue you’ll want to read over and over – you’re in perfect company on the floating raft of Edge of Dark Water.

Me? I’m off to the bathroom with a box of tissues and my copy of Lansdale’s The Magic Wagon

– Brice

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