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[Joe Lansdale Appreciation Day] The Man with the Mojo


Copyright 2003 steve@stevethornton.com

 

Written by: Tyler Reedy

 
Known as the Champion Mojo Storyteller, Joe R. Lansdale has been slinging out novels since before I was born and his prolific career has included several mediums.  Currently a resident of Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife and pets, the 61 year young horror master spends his time writing and teaching at his own martial arts school all the while being Writer in Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University. While decidedly less horrific, Lansdale is probably most known for his “Hap and Leonard” series of novels which features a more modern day Holmes and Watson team from Texas solving crimes.  Lansdale has put much of himself into this series (along with his other stories) as indicated by them both being from Texas and well-versed in martial arts. Of course he would know a lot of that subject as he is a member of the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as well as the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  Of course if you’re into something a little different, you could always try his “Ned the Seal” series, an alternate universe western parody of less conventional means.

Author of over 30 novels, Lansdale’s work also has been compiled into several short story collections.  Many of these stories are winners of literary awards, among some of them are eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Edgar Award, and the American Horror Award.  The World Horror Convention even awarded him the Grand Master Award in 2007 for his contributions in the field of horror literature.  Even if you’re not as big of a fan of books as we are here at HNR, there’s still a good chance you’ve seen some of his work in one form or another.  Some of his stories have been adapted to film and two of which I’ve reviewed below (Bubba Ho-tep and Incident On and Off a Mountain Road) have had the honor of being on this expanding list.  Your children may have also been exposed to some of his writing since he has written episodes for Batman: The Animated Series cartoon and many other graphic novels and comics like Jonah Hex and The Spirit.

Many novelists don’t get the chance to make it to this level, but I’m glad to say Lansdale has, especially with his ability to cover multiple genres besides horror.  Now I haven’t read as much of Lansdale’s work compared to some of the other horror masters, but I can tell you he has a unique way of characterization that may be hit or miss for some people. Regardless, he is a great storyteller and has a way of making you think twice about what you’ve just read before your mind settles down. I’ve had the pleasure to review some of his more well-known shorts for Joe R. Lansdale Appreciation Day here at HNR.  I hope you have the urge to look up some of his work and that he has many years of storytelling ahead of him.

bubbahotep

Bubba Ho-Tep

Bubba Ho-Tep is a “what-if” story of an aged Elvis Presley who, in this timeline, has switched places with an Elvis impersonator.  Leaving his double to die a drug-riddled death, he finds himself living his days out in a rest home in Texas.  At his age, Elvis has grown to be a vulgar, perverted elderly man who wallows in his self-pity in this institution along with its equally eccentric residents.  Elvis is oddly the most lucid of these characters, which in and of itself is not saying much.  One night after hearing strange noises Elvis awakes to wander the rest home and discover one of his neighbors (a black gentleman who believes himself to be John F. Kennedy) passed out cold on the floor of his room.  They discover the cause to be a mummy (yes, a mummy) and set off on a quest to purge their abode of this foul demon.

Filled with Elvis’ repugnant charm, this entry does manage to tell a coherent, well-written short story despite the outlandish subject matter I’ve described.  Some may cringe at Lansdale’s prolific use of questionable language, but Elvis’ character as a miserable, yet plucky, man with a mission does somewhat redeem this marred gem of a tiny tale.

Rating: 3/5

Night They Missed the Horror Show

Leonard and his friend Billy skipped the drive-in that night.  The movie showing was Night of the Living Dead and Leonard doesn’t cotton to the race of the starring character so instead they sit bored and drunk in the Dairy Queen parking lot.  After so much boredom takes its toll, the inebriated teens hitch some roadkill to their ’64 Impala and take it for a spin.  Down the road they see their team mate Scott being lynched by a rival team.  Now ordinarily, Leonard could care less, but Scott is their team’s saving grace and he’d rather not lose a game than watch their black team member end up as dead as the road kill they’ve been dragging for the last few miles.  Saving Scott and their own hides soon becomes a priority and after a chase through town they lose their pursuers down a dark alley.  Celebration seems in order but before that happens a storage building door opens in the dark revealing a slew of men watching a film of the snuff variety.  Their night head downhill as they all just wish they’d gone to the drive-in.

This period piece is a nice short story even if the topic of racial segregation seems a bit forced.  Worth the time to read, but more action and horror was really needed to make this a tale stand out as much as some of Lansdale’s other stories.

Rating: 2.5/5

incident_mountain_road

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

Driving down a mountain road is usually an uneventful trip but not tonight.  After crashing into an oncoming car, Ellen pulls herself from her damaged vehicle in an effort to check on the other party involved.  When she finds plenty of blood but no survivors she heads down a nearby trail in the hopes of tending to the injured.  What she finds instead is much worse.  Standing on the trail with knife in hand is a hulking man with a pale white face and teeth capped in silver.  Naturally there is nothing decent about this man dubbed Moon Face and they engage in a game of cat and mouse with Ellen fending for her life.  Luckily, Ellen has plenty of knowledge to help in this situation thanks to her nutty, survivalist ex-boyfriend, Bruce.  This chase continues until Ellen finds herself pinned between the killer and his hideout nestled on a cliff and must fight to survive.

The action starts and never lets up in this short that has every making of a great slasher flick.  Lansdale crams an amazing amount of detail and backstory into so few pages that it amazes me there was even any room left for it to be so action-packed.  He has obviously thought about the killer’s motivations and it shows immensely in the descriptions.  My only complaint is there wasn’t more and I highly urge anyone to check out this great slasher story with a twist.

Rating: 4/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

1 Comment on [Joe Lansdale Appreciation Day] The Man with the Mojo

  1. I highly suggest that everyone finds a way to attend a reading by Lansdale. Once you get his voice in your head, his work is taken to another level. Truly one of the best, and most underappreciated writers of our time.

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