Like many others, I came to the book through the movie, which is brilliant. Once I saw the movie, I knew I had to read the book, and I was not disappo...moreLike many others, I came to the book through the movie, which is brilliant. Once I saw the movie, I knew I had to read the book, and I was not disappointed. Gibbons works within conventional tropes and themes, yet comes to some very unconventional conclusions. The charaters are fabulous and the running joke about the four cows (Aimless, Pointless, Feckless & Graceless) who are so bored & downtrodden that they fail to notice their own limbs falling off never fails to make me laugh out loud. The best thing about Cold Comfort Farm is how well it holds up on re-reading.(less)
I've read my share of action-oriented books, and I'm right fond of plot, but every once in a while a story comes along to remind you that sometimes ch...moreI've read my share of action-oriented books, and I'm right fond of plot, but every once in a while a story comes along to remind you that sometimes characters and atmosphere is enough. The Enchanted April is sweet and charming and funny and never crosses the line into twee.(less)
The cover design for this series does the author no favors. What lurks beneath this generic, vaguely chick-lit-y, vaguely historical cover is a rollic...moreThe cover design for this series does the author no favors. What lurks beneath this generic, vaguely chick-lit-y, vaguely historical cover is a rollicking adventure with terrific characters, gentle humor and various deeds of derring-do. This is the first of Reid's Moosepath books, and an entertaining introduction to the wonders of small-town life in turn of the century Maine. If you can read this and not come away from it with a bit of a crush on Reid's quirky cast, you're a better person than I.(less)
Neal Barrett, Jr. is an original. In his 40+-year career he’s written everything from science fiction to westerns to romance novels, and every story h...moreNeal Barrett, Jr. is an original. In his 40+-year career he’s written everything from science fiction to westerns to romance novels, and every story has his own unique spin to it. But for me, one book stands out above the rest as the funniest, the strangest, the grandest: The Hereafter Gang.
This book was praised to the skies when it came out, and not just by genre reviewers. The Washington Post review called The Hereafter Gang “one of the great American novels.” Of course, no one paid attention, and the book went out of print. I first heard about it while reading Joe R. Lansdale’s Mucho Mojo, when Hap and Leonard wouldn’t stop talking about how great the book was. I started looking for it, and it took me 5 years to track down a reasonably priced copy (The paperback came out a few years later. Bastards.). Was it worth the wait? Damn straight.
This utterly unclassifiable book is one of my all-time favorites. Barrett’s musings on life and the afterlife are entertaining, shocking, and hilarious. How can you go wrong with a guy who looks decades younger than he really is due to periodic immersions in his native soil, a hot-pants-wearing honey named Sue Jean, a gold-chain-wearing, tennis-playing Jesus, and the unique notion that Heaven is in Oklahoma? (less)
I've read a lot of Lansdale, and this is one of my favorites. Joe was born and raised in East Texas, and he writes about the area with a knowledge and...moreI've read a lot of Lansdale, and this is one of my favorites. Joe was born and raised in East Texas, and he writes about the area with a knowledge and authority few can match. He's got a distinct authorial voice and a natural storyteller's flair for pacing and character. The Bottoms is funny and sad and scary and above all, true to its setting and its characters, the good and not-so-good.(less)
Boy's Life has something for everyone: murder, monsters, ghosts, gunfights, a hellfire preacher, a poo-flinging monkey, friendship, bullies, triumph,...moreBoy's Life has something for everyone: murder, monsters, ghosts, gunfights, a hellfire preacher, a poo-flinging monkey, friendship, bullies, triumph, loss, and a whole lot more. Perhaps the highest praise I can give the book is this: I was never an 11 year-old boy, but McCammon sure makes me wish that I was. Much like Bradbury, McCammon has a way of writing about boyhood that may not be completely accurate, but that feels true just the same. (less)
What exactly makes someone a “Texas Writer?” Residence in the state (current or ever)? Setting of the story? Theme? For me, it’s a combination of all...moreWhat exactly makes someone a “Texas Writer?” Residence in the state (current or ever)? Setting of the story? Theme? For me, it’s a combination of all of those things, but the most important attribute is voice. I grew up in Texas, and other than a four-year aberration known as graduate school, I’ve lived here all of my life. If I can hear the characters speaking and they sound like people I’ve known, then you’re what I think of when I think of Texas Writers.
Don’t get me wrong—the other stuff is important, too. There’s enough “Texas Pride” in me to believe that only someone who has spent time here can ever understand (or accurately describe) the people & places I know. There’s so much mythology and legend mixed in with the idea of Texas that only someone who’s experienced the state first hand can chart a course through the sea of contradiction that is being a Texan.
An example, you ask? Look no further than Neal Barrett, Jr.’s wonderful Interstate Dreams.Part of the book takes place in Austin, and Barrett nails the city. As far as I know, Mama Lucy’s Vishnu & Jesus Barbecue does not exist, but if it did, it would exist in Austin, and it would look, sound, and smell exactly as Barrett described it. His Austin is familiar to me, and his characters are, too. I was going to say “even the strange ones,” but maybe the more accurate phrase is “especially the strange ones.” Barrett excels at highlighting the quirks without losing the characters.(less)
2006 marks what would have been Robert E. Howard's 100th birthday. Editors Cupp and Lansdale contacted a bunch of writers with strong ties to Texas an...more2006 marks what would have been Robert E. Howard's 100th birthday. Editors Cupp and Lansdale contacted a bunch of writers with strong ties to Texas and gave them some simple boundaries: write a story featuring a character of Robert E. Howard's, a story featuring Howard himself as a character, or a story in the style of Robert E. Howard.
If you've ever met a Texan, it will come as no surprise to you that these writers took some pretty imaginative journeys to get where they were going. It should also come as no surprise to you that this is a top-flight collection, full of enough adventure, myth, humor, and apes (regular and giant-sized) to satisfy even the most jaded reader.
The stories are strong and cover a wide spectrum. Some of the standouts are "The Stone of Namirha" by Charlotte Laughlin and Bill Crider, a modern day tale involving rival sorcerers, a jewel that can control the world, and a resurrected Robert E. Howard; Gene Wolfe's "Six From Atlantis," a tale of Kull worthy of Howard himself; Chris Nakashima-Brown's "The Bunker of the Tikriti," a re-telling of "The Tower of the Elephant" set in modern Iraq; and Michael Moorcock's "The Roaming Forest," a tale of Rackhir, the Red Archer and his quest for Tanelorn.
For my money, though, the story you absolutely shouldn't miss is Melissa Mia Hall's "The Sea of Grass on the Day of Wings," a look at Robert E. Howard's last day.
Whatever part of Howard you like, you'll find something in this collection to take away with you. Are you the adventurous sort? Check out Lawrence Person's "The Toughest Jew in the West," or James Reasoner's "Wolves of the Mountains." Need your funnybone tickled? Try Paul O. Miles and Rick Klaw's "A Penny a Word," or Jayme Lynn Blaschke's epic of zeppelins and giant apes "Prince Koindrindra Escapes."
Or maybe you have a taste for the dark and mysterious. Look no further than Scott Cupp's "One Fang," or Neal Barrett, Jr.'s "The Heart." And if your fascination is for the man himself, you'll get some interesting glimpses of him in Mark Finn's "A Whim of Circumstance" and L.J. Washburn's "Boomtown Bandits."
Texas is an epic place, where fact looks a lot like fiction and fiction tends to edge toward the mythic. Editors Cupp and Lansdale have marked out a territory big enough to encompass the facts of Howard's life, the legends he created, and the mythic places where the two intersect, and in the process have brought together a host of excellent writers to do old Robert proud. (less)
Russell wakes up one day and everybody’s trying to kill him. He has no idea why, because he’s an alcoholic and he can’t remember where he’s been or wh...moreRussell wakes up one day and everybody’s trying to kill him. He has no idea why, because he’s an alcoholic and he can’t remember where he’s been or what he’s done for the past couple of days. A wild joyride with a funny but thoroughly untrustworthy narrator.(less)