Joe R. Lansdale is not your typical writer; he never was. He started out in the eighties and wrote some wonderfully crazy horror novels that broke all the rules. Next he branched out into Western-like stories that had zombies in them, followed by jaw-dropping crime stories in the nineties, of which the Hap Collins and Leonard Pine series are his most famous. With his novel The Bottoms, published in 2000, he wrote his first serious fiction novel, although with Lansdale nothing is serious. If anything he used everything he had learned in his genre-writing days to create his own unique style. If he can be compared to other writers, he will probably be linked to the likes of Mark Twain and Harper Lee. What they have in common besides telling good stories is that they are regional in their writing, but with a very universal appeal. In the case of Lansdale it is the hot, poor and racist-divided state of Texas. This makes that his characters are very colorful, down-to-earth people you wouldn’t come across in a Norman Rockwell painting. With Lansdale everything is down and dirty even though there is honesty and a pureness of heart in all the stories that he tells. And that is what makes it so exciting to read a writer like him, because you just never know what is waiting for you around the corner.
Edge of Dark Water is situated somewhere in the Depression era in a small town in Texas. May Lynn, a pretty girl who dreams of becoming a Hollywood star, is murdered and found tied op to a Singer sewing machine at the bottom of the river. Sue-Ellen, her strong-willed friend, and her two pals Terry and Jinx, decide to dig up her body, burn it to ashes, and take those to Hollywood, so that they can at least make part of their friend’s dream come true. With a raft and a bag of stolen money they found in May Lynn’s possession, they set off on their journey downriver. But what begins as a pilgrimage of sorts, where they pick up people along the way who are fleeing from their own lives, rapidly becomes a dark and crime-ridden journey, were the local constable comes after them for the money he wants for himself, and Skunk, an all-to0-real bogeyman and legendary killer, is after them for their lives. They realize how making the dream of a friend their own can unexpectedly turn into a horrible nightmare. With twists and turns like that dark river that is central in the story, Lansdale tells his tale with raw emotions that are sometimes darkly funny, and other times mean and scary. This ‘hillbilly noir‘ is about a journey that is bigger than the small lives that our characters live, one filled with courage and grace in times of death and darkness.