Category Archives: Literary Review

Review of James Lee Burke’s Wayfaring Stranger

I hold James Lee Burke’s abilities to weave a story with style in the highest of esteem. I’ll give this novel 4.5/5 based on the Burke Scale. If it is on the scale of all of what I read, it’s a solid 5. And that silly half-point deduction is probably because it is a new character.

I like this new guy, Weldon Holland. He’s a man’s man. If you are a fan of Burke’s you might recognize the surname as related to Hackberry Holland and Billy Bob Holland. Those characters are cousins of this Holland and strength of character seems to be a family trait. In the real world, the dedication is to Burke’s cousin, Weldon Benbow “Buddy” Mallette. It’s not hard to see what Burke has been doing with his family history these past decades.

This novel gets its juice from a long remembered experience of the main character as a child when he encounters Bonnie and Clyde in a rural woods. That experience floats in and out of the entirety of this 444 page novel which starts in a dust bowl era pecan grove and winds its way through WWII in Europe and finishes out in the oil fields of Texas and gossip pages of Hollywood in the 50s. As is always the case with Burke, the pure descriptive strength of his prose is powerful in this broad sweep of landscape and history.

And that prose…oh, my, God…I would give treasured, even intimate parts of my body to be able to write prose like his. A chapter (6) in a TB Sanitarium is among the best writing I’ve seen. If you want to argue this in the comments, I have about a dozen examples that will melt your resistance to the prospect. But in this novel, he does the absolute best work with what I consider to be the hardest part of writing from the senses: the use of the sense of smell. Let me give you just two short examples. 1) At the sanitarium, “I was inside a chemical environment that was warm and cool at the same time; the air smelled of flowers and rain spotting on warm stone.” I hear you that “rain spotting on warm stone” says nothing of scent, but you are so, so wrong. You know in your soul that those flowers smell one way by themselves and a different way in the presence of “rain spotting on warm stone.” 2) On a stop at a Texas gas station in the ’50s: “The evening sun was red inside the dust from the fields, the cotton leaves wilted in the heat, the air close with the odor of  herbicide and hot tar.” As a wayfaring stranger myself, I spent a good portion of my youth hitchhiking all over this country. I KNOW that smell by the side of a Texas road.

Characters, let Burke draw you a picture: At an outdoor cocktail party– “I saw a man in a checkered sport coat and a loud tie pick up a drink from a tray and hand it to a woman in a strapless silver evening dress that exposed the tops of her breasts and was as tight as tin on the rest of her.”  Or, describing a character named McQueen. “He was a large man, with craggy good looks and no fat on his body and a voice that was like a dull saw cutting through a  dry board.”

What of the political context of Burke’s novels? I love this easily understood expression of how Fascism started to come to America. Remember, this was in description of a time before Ike warned us all about the “Industrial-Military complex.” It speaks to the perception of the American Dream and the lure of acquiring more. Weldon, who is becoming a successful business man as a pipeline provider during the oil rushes, is in conversation about a man much more wealthy, connected and dangerous than himself. Weldon wants him in jail.

The dangerous man’s son, Roy says, “…you have it all, Weldon, but you don’t realize it. Others covet what you take for granted. You’re an honorable man. Your wife loves you. You’re the captain of your soul. With time, others will take all that away from you. That’s what you fail to understand. They want your soul.”

“And how will they take that from me?”

“They’ll turn you into one of them. You’ll wake up one morning and look at your reflection in the mirror and wonder what happened to the little boy in his white First Communion suit. See you around, Buster Brown!”

If that is not a clarion call for our times, I don’t know what is. There are other, maybe greater ramifications of this particular conversation, but ultimately this entire section of the novel is designed to reveal that “ambition,” while lauded in our bootstraps mythology, is too easily perverted into “greed.” In Burke’s mind, it takes a man of honor to maintain the balance to walk that line. He shows us several more times in ensuing plot elements.

The struggle between the civilized, ambitious man and the greedy animal within becomes terribly obvious when Weldon is forced to defend himself from a very bad cop. If we are honest, Weldon went to the cop’s house armed in anticipation, but at some point he “chooses” to act. After it is over: “Let no man tell you our simian ancestor is not alive and well waiting for his moment to come aborning again.” Well, ain’t that some truth?

I’m not going to tell you if the good guy gets the girl and rides off into the sunset at the end. I will tell you that, as I approach my 67th year, I hope one of the things people will be able to say at the end of my road trip is, “He was honorable.”  Oh, yeah, and “not a  fascist.”

Review of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

It is fair to say I have a favorable bias toward this material. I taught Mythology in high school for several years. I enjoyed it too, until we started eliminating all those superfluous subjects and ended up with Vanilla English 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Like most teachers of the time, I spent a lot of time talking about what a mythology was, how it supported the population and telling the long-told lie that the most important of the myths came from the Greeks who then had their stories stolen by the Romans. Then, we spent the last couple of weeks of the course looking at the “others,” with most of the others being the Norse.

This book suffers a little from that ideology too, although not to the point where it is a flaw necessarily. What Gaiman attempts to do is to put some of the stories into a kind of novelistic arc of storytelling. More or less he tells some of the creation myth, several of the stories unique to the personalities of the major players and then a representation of the end of times in Norse myth. He even poses the question of whether the end times tales are stories of what has already happened or whether it is a tale of what is yet to come.

I love the selections he has chosen to illuminate. We get a good sense of Odin, wisest of the wise but only because he has been willing to make literal mythic sacrifices in exchange for knowing. What a great and lasting tale for all who still care about knowing. Not an alt-fact anywhere in sight for Odin’s single eye.

Gaiman gives us some good tales about Odin’s son, Thor. He is, of course, the hero’s hero but depicted as not the brightest flame in Valhalla. Thor shows us the worth of lots of other characteristics, including strength, bravery, determination.

There are also stories about Loki, who isn’t technically a god as he is the son of a giant. But his association with Odin has always set him up for preferential treatment in Asgard, as well as the jealousy and, in some cases, outright hostility of the other gods and goddesses.

Two stories strike me as the best of the bunch, although it is difficult to tease the threads of one or two stories out of the beautiful tapestry Gaiman presents. I like particularly the story he calls, “The Mead of Poets.” I am a home winemaker and I have made several batches of mead. It is predominantly wine made from honey, but modern mead has little resemblance to the drink of the Vikings. They did quick and dirty fermentations and added a veritable cornucopia of adjunct ingredients. The mead you would drink in one village was likely to bear little resemblance to what you might encounter in another. The mead of this story is very much like that.

Ultimately, the mead is made from honey and the blood of a divine poet and drinking it sets the muse loose from one’s heart. For the sake of brevity, and to keep you interested when you get your copy of this book, here is a little synopsis of the end of the tale. Odin steals the mead by drinking it, changing into an eagle and flying back to Asgard to deliver the goods to the gods, where, like a father bird, he will spit it out for his underlings. This is the magic mead that makes wonderful poets. Great poets have tasted Odin’s gift. And that is the end of the story…except it is not.

There is another kind of poetry anyone who has ever attended an open mic has heard. Like any good myth, there has to be an explanation for bad poetry too. And the Norsemen provided a fine one.

Odin is flying back to Asgard as fast as he can with the stolen mead in his belly and Suttung, the one from whom Odin has stolen, has also changed into eagle form and is chasing Odin, actually nipping at his tail feathers as they approach. At this point, Gaiman, interrupts his story to speak directly to the reader, saying, “The delicate among you should stop your ears, or read no further.” And yet, two paragraphs remain.

With Suttung literally hot on his tail, “…Odin blew some of the mead out his behind, a splattery wet fart of foul-smelling mead right in Suttung’s face, blinding the giant and throwing him off Odin’s trail. No one, then or now, wanted to drink the mead that came out of Odin’s ass. But whenever you hear bad poets declaiming their bad poetry, filled with foolish similes and ugly rhymes, you will know which of the meads they have tasted.”

I love a myth that explains both the good and the bad, don’t you?

The other individual story I loved in this collection is because of its obvious relation to our own life and times. The gods are perpetually at war, usually with the giants and they decide they need protection in the form of a wall. But they don’t want to actually invest in the actual building of a wall so they find a guy, an immigrant stranger actually, who will build the wall for them. (BTW, Loki figures out a way to enter a contract. It is a fine, binding deal until Loki figures out a way to cheat.) Mythology often serves the purpose of providing morality lessons.

“I can build you a wall,” said the stranger. “Build it so high that the tallest giant could not climb it, so thick that the strongest troll could not batter through it. I can build it so well, by placing stone upon stone, that not an ant could find space enough to crawl through it. I will build you a wall that will last for a thousand thousand years.”

“Such a wall would take a very long time to build,” said Loki.

“Not at all,” said the stranger. “I can build it in three seasons. Tomorrow is the first day of winter. It would only take me a winter, a summer and another winter to build.”

Of course, like in all myths and tales of super-human feats of strength and engineering, there are elements of subterfuge, trickery, treachery and falsity. In this story you’ll find a lot of those things, but in this case, the guy who has everything ends up with more and the guy doing the building gets screwed. Huh, imagine that.

Anyway, great book, fast read. It only took me a couple of days but you will do it in one. Buy a copy in hardbound for your library and then buy one for each of your grandchildren (no matter how many you are going to end up with.) Five out of Five, Neil.

Review–Light of the World by James Lee Burke

 

This is the twentieth novel in the Dave Robicheaux series. If you have read and enjoyed the earlier ones, you will enjoy this one too. And if you have not read any of the earlier efforts by Burke in the series, this is not the place to start. Start with Creole Belle. This series and this character have both grown over their career-long development. I do hope there is at least one more Robicheaux novel set in Louisiana.

All of our favorite characters are present and accounted for: Dave Robicheaux, Clete Purcell, Dave’s daughter Alafair Robicheaux, Clete’s daughter Gretchen Horowitz. And bad guys. No one paints better bad guys than Burke. In this case, Asa Surrette is an asshole, a first class asshole. He even stinks of shit, literally. Kidnapper, rapist, murderer, mass murderer, torturer. More. A deeply committed asshole…with skills.

The first third of the novel goes to great lengths to set up tension between Dave and Clete on one side and the official law enforcers of a rural Montana County on the other. That is what Clete is for. Everyone knows Clete just wants to get stuff done and he doesn’t care too much about the bright line of the law. He is a P.I. after all. Dave’s job is to keep Clete just on this side of legal. He often fails.

As usual, Burke’s general themes play out at length. What is the source of evil? What are “good” men to do about the problem of evil? Can we get in the ring with evil and get out without its stink clinging to us? Toward that purpose, we get passages like this: “The evil in our lives comes from men’s greed, and the manifestation of that greed is in the corporations that cause the wars.” (252)

At least we can agree on politics.

But what of mortality? How long should a man live in the face of evil? When have we had enough? Albert is a teacher of creative writing who has lived longer than he thought and longer than his wife. He also had Asa Surrette as a student at some time in the past. How does Robicheaux feel about Albert? “I loved Albert and felt bad for him. I hadn’t meant to hurt him or remind him of the loss of his wife or call up the feelings of loneliness and mortality that beset all of us when we live longer than perhaps we should.” (252) In short, Burke is reaching for an elusive thread that reveals that “good guys” and “bad guys,” if they live long enough, are not very clearly different from each other. Some pessimism, I suppose. But the older I get, the truer it feels to me.

And later, one more distinction to draw: malevolence as it relates to evil. There are lots of cruel people. But even in understanding that, Burke offers this apologia. Robicheaux says, “I have known many cruel people in my life. Their cruelty, in my opinion, was the mask for their fear. It’s as simple as that.” (280) I must concur. I’ve never known a bully who wasn’t a coward; I’ve never known a cruel person who wasn’t fearful of someone being cruel to them first. Can we still love humanity if we know these things?

If all of this existential dourness is true, what is the point of reading a Dave Robicheaux novel? Or reading at all? Or breathing?

“I have never set much store in psychological stability or what we refer to as normalcy. I don’t believe the world is a rational place; nor do I believe that either science or the study of metaphysics can explain any of the great mysteries. I have always fled the presence of those who claim they know the truth about anything. I agree with George Bernard Shaw’s statement that we learn little or nothing from rational people, because rational people adapt themselves to the world and, consequently, are seldom visionary.” (604)

And so, throughout history, the artists have thrown in with the crazy, the deluded, the drunkards, the addicts, the other artists.

Whether we like it or not, we are approaching the end of the life of Burke. He has written a shelf-full of fiction and what does a writer like that generate after a lifetime of examining the human condition? How about this pearl?

From the epilogue, Dave Robicheaux says:

“I have never bought into the notion that time is linear, in the same way I feel that straight lines are a superimposition on the natural world and contravene the impetus that drives it. All matter aspires to roundness and symmetry, in the same way that seasons are cyclical and that God in His way slays Himself with every leaf that flies. In other words, inside eternity, the alpha and omega meet and end at the same place. I guess a simpler way of saying it is that things are often not as they appear.” (627)

Thus it is with evil.

Review: “Flaming London” (the second story in the volume Flaming Zeppelins, The Adventures of Ned the Seal) by Joe R. Lansdale

 

https://smile.amazon.com/Flaming-Zeppelins-Adventures-Ned-Seal/dp/1616960027/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484674111&sr=8-1&keywords=Ned+the+Seal

If you are a cutting edge feminist of the 21st Century you will probably just want to skip this. There are almost no women characters in the story. The ones who are there, end up being pretty much about sex. There are a ton of dick jokes, big dongs, gigantic dongs, little dongs, average dongs, horse dongs, ape dongs, seal dongs, Native American dongs, old dongs, alien dongs, dongs from the future, pirate dongs, and double-assholed Martians. No, really. Just skip this one. Oh, and farts.

For the rest of us, probably mostly just the boys left now, I laughed a lot through this 150 page tale. Sometimes, just little chuckles, sometimes out loud guffaws. I’ll try to supply a couple of examples in the context of the following.

I had no way of knowing, but you will now, that the entire plot of this story is contained in a single paragraph before the story even starts. Turns out, that’s OK and me telling you isn’t even a spoiler.

PLOT
From the Autobiography of Ned the Seal, Adventurer Extraordinaire: “And I was there when the Martians came, and all the horrors that accompanied them. I was a companion of Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as the great novelist Mark Twain. I knew his friend, Jules Verne. I knew H. G. Wells. I knew the Lost Island. And I knew London when it was in flames. In my life, I have eaten many fish.”

SETTING
Well, various. Always on Earth (not all characters are so lucky). Always in the 19th Century (not all characters are so lucky). Mostly Europe although at least once on Mysterious Island and the coast of Africa (but that was an accident).

CHARACTERS
A bunch of boys with dongs, a sentient seal with a dong, a sentient giant red Ape from Mars with a giant dong, a forty foot mechanical man powered by steam with no dong. Passepartout (he’s about the same); The Flying Dutchman (about the same); pirates (particularly nasty, pyromaniacal and blood-thirsty ones); and more.

Ned the Seal. “I have thumbs, and I can do some things you wouldn’t imagine a seal might do, but the use of really fine motor skills in the area of grabbing and such is not a specialty. I can pull my dick. I do that well. But I’ve discovered that this isn’t an area of conversation that my companions wish to visit. They have, in fact, asked me not to do it while around them. I never learned that this whole yanking the tow line was a private matter… I’m a seal. I don’t wear britches. So, well, it’s out there when I get ready for it to be. I get the urge, it pokes out. I suppose, if I wore britches, I might not think about it as much.”

Twain.“…Twain noted that Jules’ depression…was passing. He was glad. Jules was a good man. A little more successful than himself…Well, a lot. But a good man. He just wished he were the one who was successful and Jules had a corn cob up his ass.”

Martians. (in conversation).
mine! ultu gets to kill.
no. mine. ultu can suck my asses
fatty.
smelly.

Rikwalk. “There was something different about the shape of (the ape’s) head, the very human eyes (which, later, in better light I saw to be green) the thin lips and full ears with lobes. He stood more upright, and unlike apes, who have small penises, this guy had a goober that looked like a four-foot switch handle hammer, testicles like grapefruits.”

Rikwalk is also from Mars but not the same Mars as the Martians…“a lush Mars, ripe as a nubile virgin in stretch pants.”

Jules Verne.  “Verne was on the second-floor landing, sitting with pen and paper, working on a dark novel about Paris, thinking about how old he felt, the loss of his wife and children, who had gone off to live somewhere in France with the explorer Phileas Fogg…He wished he had his children back, and his wife had a hot croissant up her ass, and Fogg had one too. Neither croissant buttered, and both day old and stiff.”

Herbert G. Wells. He says The Time Machine was not fiction but mere “reporting.”

POINT OF VIEW
Jumps around. And we forgive it. Some of it is written directly by Ned, the sentient seal in the first person. Sometimes it is in more conventional 3rd person. It’s OK, really. That part is probably written by Ned too. But once in a while it drifts over to 3rd person omniscient. See next paragraph.

There is also a frequent dissolution of the conceit that the reader is a passive voyeur of the story. Example:

“Passepartout, pushed upright, put a foot on the side of the basket, grabbed a cable, went up swift and nimble as a monkey this time. The basket shook like dice in an eager gambler’s hand. (Note these similes. I read a lot and am quite proud of it. I am, after all, a seal.)”

And, at one point, Lansdale knows he has overstepped the narrator’s place and he writes:

“Omniscient narrator is getting a headache, baby, so he’s gonna back off…”

All of this has to happen because Lansdale is also writing about the Multiverse. That’s just the kind of trouble a writer runs into writing about that stuff. I think he is ultimately saying that the Multiverse really does exist in our creative consciousness. It is the writer’s consciousness that allows us to hold multiple and sometimes contradictory realities in our minds at the same time.

THEME
Mmmm…adventure? Episodic? Picaresque? Yup, a lot like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, except it was a helium balloon and not a raft, and we were escaping invading Martians not slave hunters, and finding H. G. Wells was the destination instead of Aunt Sally’s. And we are not traveling with Jim, the runaway slave, but rather, with Samuel Clemens himself. Pretty clever really. Nice homage…with dongs.

I can’t wait for this to become a movie series like Guardians of the Galaxy. Groot!

PS I also downloaded and read the 19th Century Dime Novel entitled The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis. It is pretty horrible as you might imagine, but it gave me a sense of the kind of reading Lansdale did to get ready to write this story. Read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Steam_Man_of_the_Prairies
And if you want, download it for free here: https://smile.amazon.com/Huge-Hunter-Steam-Man-Prairies-ebook/dp/B0084AS5WS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484673253&sr=8-2&keywords=Steam+Man+of+the+Prairies

Historically, it was the first US science fiction dime novel. So add a little history to your consciousness. Note that this was a series whose intended audience was boys as well and featured most of the elements of the age of invention.

If you have more than a passing interest in science fiction, you should not pass Ned’s story up. It is such an amazing homage to the genre’s early work. For that, I give it 5 stars…unless you’re a feminist. If that is the case, just skip this one.

Review: Zeppelins West, Joe R. Lansdale

For clarity, this volume contains two longish novellas. This review is of only one, the first: Zeppelins West. It is approximately half of the volume Flaming Zeppelins, The Adventures of Ned the Seal by Joe R. Lansdale.

https://smile.amazon.com/Flaming-Zeppelins-Adventures-Ned-Seal-ebook/dp/B01MQT5VKS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484083117&sr=1-1&keywords=flaming+zeppelins

If you come to Joe Lansdale via his Hap and Leonard series, as I did, you might not recognize this weird volume. It is the oddest and funniest thing of Lansdale’s that I have read.

Go ahead, other lesser writers. Try to put a novel together that uses characters from history, embellishments from fiction and more than one homage to other writers of certain genres. You can’t do it like this.

Characters:
The head of Buffalo Bill Cody
Ned Buntline, author of dime novels about Wild Bill Hickok https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_Buntline
(of course) Wild Bill Hickok
Annie Oakley
Sitting Bull
Captain Jack Crawford, the poet scout https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wallace_Crawford
Japanese biplane pilots
A fleet of zeppelins
A midget named Goober
Frank Reade (and his steam man) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Reade
Takeda Sokaku https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeda_S%C5%8Dkaku

And a bunch of others all make appearances in the first ten pages of this story. As if trying to place all of these historical characters next to each other weren’t disjointing enough, later he sends in Dr. Moreau (Dr. Momo), Captain Nemo (Captain Bemo), Frankenstein’s monster (Bert), Tin the Wizard of Oz Tin Man and others.

All of them are in interaction with Ned the Seal who doesn’t speak but who writes notes in a notebook hung around his neck.

Plot:
A lot of things happen one after the other

Theme:
Kind of a love story???

Let me just give you a series of quotes:

Sitting Bull, in conversation with Wild Bill Hickok.

“Howdy, Bull,” Hickok said…the earth went by in black and green patches, the Pacific Ocean swelled into view, dark blue and forever.
“Been across big water many times,” Bull said. “Still fucks me over.”
“Me too,” Hickok said.
“Deep. Big fish with teeth. Makes Bull’s tent peg small.”

Performance poets, please consider this:

“Captain Jack Crawford, the poet scout, appeared on deck. He was dressed in his beaded buckskins and wore a tan hat, the brim of which snapped in the wind. He was seldom seen without his hat. What most didn’t know was that his hair, though long on the sides, was bald on top. Scalped by Cheyenne summer of ’76 was the story he told, but in actuality he had been held down after a poetry reading by some miners, and with the help of Oscar Wilde, who was touring the West at the time, they had scalped him as punishment for his poetry. Literary criticism at its most brutal.”

Later, Crawford says:

“Well, I doubt I’ll be doing any recitations in Japan,” Jack said. “They don’t speak English.”
“How bad of Japanese not speak English, “ Bull said. “Like dirty Indians who speak Indian words, not English.”
“Custer killer,” Captain Jack said.
“White eye motherfucker in wrong place at wrong time,” Bull said. “Know Custer your friend, Hickok, but Custer still a motherfucker.”

Later Tin and Bert, Frankenstein’s monster, fall in love and we are given peeks into their love life. In fact, the end of the story concludes with their romance as they are whisked away to a foreign world with two moons through the use of Dorothy’s (Dot) magic slippers. That’s why I think this is a love story.

“Tin and Bert live there.
Bert has fish and fruit to eat.
Tin uses oil made from plants and fish to keep himself functional.
All day they talk and walk and at night they lie together.
The sun comes up. The sun goes down.
The moons come up. The moons go down.
The Tin Man’s chest feels warm, as if a heart beats there.
Bert, the monster Frankenstein built of dead bodies, feels very much alive.
And the two of them together, feel rich and full of soul.”

Review: Prisoner 489 by Joe R. Lansdale

https://smile.amazon.com/Prisoner-489-Joe-R-Lansdale/dp/1626410739/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1483467699&sr=8-2&keywords=489

I asked my family for all the Joe Lansdale titles I had not yet collected for Christmas presents this year. They came through just fine!

Joe Lansdale is a master of modern writing. He does not pigeon-hole himself into one genre or another. Thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, detectives, short stories, novellas, longer novels, series writing. This guy is a modern master. I look up to him.

This little novella is hardly more than a very long short story. It begins on page 11 and it finishes on page 82. It contains 8 pages of illustration inside that range. I’m certain it is intended to be read in a single sitting, although I ended up breaking it into two pieces. I’m kind of happy I finished it in the daylight. This is a creepy story.

It is written in third person past tense. Only four human characters engage in all the action. (There is, of course, the “other” dark force and, although it clearly has intent and will, it does not speak.) All characters are associated with a prison and all may be prisoners on special assignment. Or they may not. It doesn’t really matter since they all have some good in them and are just trying to do their jobs. I’m about 88% sure that good prevails at the end of this story.

The action all takes place on an island. Lansdale refers to actions which take place on a neighboring island where the prison is located. The use of an island is excellent because we know no one is coming to save the day. In fact, we know that the protagonist(s) cannot escape to save themselves. Pretty smart writing.

I won’t tell you the story; that wouldn’t be fair. I will tell you that there are passages of excellent horror and moments that, if read before bed, might induce some disturbing sleep images. Here’s a favorite.

“…Slowly, it lifted its head to the cloud-touched moon, and that howl, that dreadful howl, that sound that uncoiled from inside the (bad guy), came out. It was both frightening and depressing. It was like the howl of something or someone that had just realized it was missing something important, and that the lack of it was an awareness so dark and deep there was no crawling out of it. It was a sound that made Bernard feel all the evil in the world, all the futility and disappointment of life, of his own life. It was a howl that reached down deep inside of him and touched a hidden nerve so buried, causing it to throb. Bernard felt that his life and all the lives that were being lived, had lived or would be lived were nothing more than desperation personified.”

Nice.

One other thing that Lansdale does as well as anyone, and better than almost all, is the interjection of humor into the horror. I’m not sure how that happens in the mind of a horror writer but here’s how it looks on the page in dialog. The heroes have hatched a plan to stop the evil.

“Bernard and Wilson scrambled into the dozer. Bernard said, “You ever play cowboy?”
“What?”
“Ever roped a cow?”
“Of course not. But if you would like to take the time to explain it to me, nothing would please me more, except for that whole giant, bad-ass monster shit.”

N’yuck, n’yuck.

The most distressing part of this little publication (Dark Regions Press, 2014) is that it suffers from a few instances of poor editing. I kind of hate editing errors. There is no real excuse for them, but here’s a sampling of what I found. Do these set your grammar nerves on edge?

1. How about this three sentence set?
“Bernard moved through the split in the trees, walking back the way they had came. Wilson caught up with him obviously not wishing to be left alone.
“They came to where the trees broke and stood where the dozer had come.”

2. Or the reference to how one could “wreck vengeance?”

There are others, but I’ll leave them to your discerning eye. Anyway, typos and editorial errors aren’t really the fault of the writer.

Lastly, it is, as I indicated, an illustrated version of the story, and, while the illustrations are suitably gray and gloomy, I’m not convinced that they add that much to the publication. But they don’t really distract too much either. So, there’s that.

Overall, it gets a 4 star rating on Amazon but the sole 1 star review and one of two 2 star reviews admit that the readers don’t seem to like the horror genre very much. I would assign those readers low stars for buying a book about stuff they don’t like. You like horror? You like hints of the occult? Dig this one.