F&SF Review

Books To Look For

Bumper Crop, by Joe R. Lansdale, Golden Gryphon, 2004, $24.95.

Dark, tender, gruesome, evocative, funny — sometimes all in the same story: It's hard to pin down Lansdale's fiction. And yet, though he might be writing about a drive-in theater pulled into another dimension, zombies in the Old West, a coming-of-age story set in Depression-era East Texas, or a blind man trying to mow a lawn with a weed-eater, there's one thing that pulls all these disparate stories together.

Lansdale's voice.

Which isn't to say that the stories sound the same. The characters in these stories are individual and Lansdale gives them their own narrative expression. But if you've ever heard the man read at a convention — or holding forth in the halls at an after-hours party — you'll hear Lansdale's Texan drawl when you read his fiction and realize that no one else can tell a story quite the same way.

The best way to get an idea of his range as a writer is to pick up a collection such as Bumper Crop, a companion to his High Cotton (Golden Gryphon, 2000). Here you'll meet the old fellow living in a dump with his unusual pet, the failed writer who discovers the ugly truth behind becoming a best-selling author, and the fat man with the deadly tattoo. You'll find out about black cowboys, houses that appear overnight, and a man who got a job as a dog for a fire department. But odd or strange or funny though the situations might be, what you'll take away is the sense of having spent some time in the company of real people, no matter how curious their situations. Lansdale has a real storyteller's gift, the kind that can make a tall tale or a serious character study equally evocative.

Both volumes feature an author's overall introduction as well as short informative — sometimes hilarious — introductions to each story.

No one does Depression-era East Texas as well as Lansdale . . . You can almost taste the dust as you turn the pages.

— Charles de Lint, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2004


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