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Sunset and Sawdust


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About the Author

Joe R. Lansdale has written more than a dozen novels in the suspense, horror, and Western genres. He has also edited several anthologies. He has received the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, six Bram Stoker Awards, and the 2001 Edgar Award for best novel from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, with his family.


Lansdale returns to Depression-era East Texas in a splendidly profane Southern Gothic as dark and rank as night soil. After shooting her spouse during conjugal rape, spunky redhead Sunset Jones winds up with his job as constable of the rough-hewn lumber town of Camp Rapture, thanks to the influence of a mother-in-law whose own marital woes are brought to an abrupt and gory end when her man lies down on the job at the sawmill. Already unpopular for thwarting a lynching, Sunset and her deputies-a devilishly handsome vagabond and his mulish rival-get in over their heads in a stew of greed and brutality when the oil-covered corpses of a mother and her newborn are plowed up in a black farmer's field. The plot is swift if a bit catawampus, with pungent atmosphere, sly humor, and striking characters such as the prodigal preacher and the outr? enforcer and his deranged, soul-sucking triggerman. Landsdale finds a fecund middle ground between the stark restraint of his Edgar Award-winning The Bottoms and the fantastic grotesqueries of his early works. Fans of either will be riveted by this bloody wreck at the muddy intersection of William Faulkner and Quentin Tarantino. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/03.]-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

The prolific Lansdale's novels (The Bottoms; Rumble Tumble; Bad Chili) are always wild and wooly, and this redneck noir stand-alone is no exception. Lansdale has shifted the time frame to the 1930s, but the novel is still set in his usual series location, East Texas-and it's still peopled by the oddest bunch of characters ever to leap off the page. The book opens in the midst of a cyclone as beautiful red-haired Sunset Jones is being beaten and raped by her no-good husband, Pete, in their ramshackle home. Fearing for her life, Sunset picks up Pete's .38 revolver (he's the town constable) and shoots him dead, just as the cyclone carries off most of their house. After recovering from the beating ("She felt as if she had been set on fire and put out with a yard rake"), she's elected to complete the remainder of Pete's term as constable, and she's more than equal to the task. A couple of dead bodies and a land fraud scheme come to light, along with some of the creepiest low-life bad guys to ever crawl out from under a rock. The mystery is only mildly engrossing here; the great pleasure of Lansdale's work lies in his pitch-perfect vernacular prose ("He had greeted them as they climbed into the car, and they hadn't said so much as eat shit or howdy"). The book opens with a cyclone, ends with a plague of grasshoppers and in between there's insanity, extreme violence, sex, grotesques aplenty and an excellent dog. What's not to like? (Mar.) Forecast: Lansdale's fan base is rabidly loyal and has been slowly expanding. A hip, new-look cover may help push him out of the realms of cult favorite and into the literary mainstream. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"[Sunset and Sawdust is] filled with turns and twists, nastiness, broad humor, moments of grace. . . . Lansdale is a storyteller in the great American tradition." -The Boston Globe

"A wonderfully nasty piece of work [that] inspires I-can't-believe-this laughter. . . . Very entertaining." -Newsday

The opening . . . will grab unsuspecting readers by the lapels and pull them right in. . . . Lansdale's prose--laconic and sarcastic--is so thick with slang and regional accent that it's as tasty as a well-cured piece of beef jerky." --The Denver Post "Lansdale is an exceptional storyteller . . . readers will feel the Texas heat and hear the story in the author's unique East Texas drawl. The vivid characterization will make readers cheer for the protagonist and boo the villain." --Rocky Mountain News "Delivers the unexpected and bizarre that his fans have come to expect. . . . The narrative is entertaining, but Lansdale's patently unvarnished storytelling-backwoods and brash all at once-is the real reason to crack this cover." --Texas Monthly "Funny, bloody and bizarre. . . . Another five-star doozy of a tale from an immensely talented and original storyteller." --The Flint Journal "Sunset Jones is the kind of woman that men who drink in East Texas bars would call a 'pistol.' As a tornado rips through the sawmill camp town of Rapture, in the rousing opening scene of Joe R. Lansdale's historical barnburner Sunset and Sawdust, Sunset finally puts a stop to her husband Pete's bloody beatings. . . . Soon Sunset has her own posse, including a wonderful dog whose abject adoration of the fiery gunslinger pretty much sums up this reader's feelings." --The New York Times Book Review

"A first-rate whodunnit. . . . [Lansdale] knows how to tell a story." --The Globe and Mail (Toronto) "Sly, easy-paced and so comfortable in its setting that it becomes almost seductive. This is what good storytelling is all about." --Arizona Republic

"Lansdale can catch that meandering East Texas twang in his writing, but just as quickly he can tighten the plot and our stomachs with a turn of phrase. . . . Lansdale gives us both atmosphere and action." --Winston-Salem Journal "Surrealistic. . . . Unpredictable. . . . A darker kind of storytelling." --Pittsburg Tribune-Review

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