In his foreword to this chicken-fried and jalapeño-laced story collection, a follow-up to High Cotton (2000), Lansdale (The Bottoms) describes these 26 tales as graduates from the "twist and surprise and ain't that damn weird school." He's about right. Published between 1982 and 2003, the tales reflect the influences of the author's East Texas roots, the "California school of horror (Bradbury, Nolan, Matheson, etc.)" and T. E. D. Klein's editorship of Twilight Zone magazine during horror's '80s heyday. Among the best are the laugh-out-loud "Chompers," about some really hungry false teeth; the luridly cartoonish "Fat Man," featuring two way-too-curious boys; "Bestsellers Guaranteed," a story any would-be bestselling author can and should appreciate; and the Bradburyesque "In the Cold, Dark Time," about a future war that now no longer sounds so distant or impossible. Other memorable selections include "Cowboy," with its biting cultural commentary on the plight of the African-American cowboy; the grotesque "God of the Razor," with its nightmare vision of serial killers; "Billie Sue," with its wacky whizbang lovers; and "The Shaggy House," with its irresistible old farts. Lord of the neo-noir Southern Gothic, Lansdale reveals once again that while these stories might not be for the weak of stomach, they're perfect for everyone else trying to get through the pain of contemporary American life. (Apr.)
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