Category Archives: Joe Lansdale

About Armadillocon

Future Potentate NamebadgeSo, yeah, about Armadillocon. You know, the one that was held at the end of July. While it’s a little late for a con report, I’m going to post a brief one. I’m home waiting on a service technician, who will be by sometime between noon and 5:00. I thought this would be a good time to kill one of the items on my Should Have Already Done List. It’s better than killing someone, such as the person who called at 10:45 wanting to know if I was available because the rest of the service calls are out of town. (No, I thought I made that clear when we talked last week. I have office hours and appointments with students in a few minutes.)

Anyway, I wasn’t planning on going this year, mainly due to distance and money.  Then I learned that Bill Crider, who is a regular, had been diagnosed with cancer.  I thought I had missed the con but found out it was a week later than I’d thought, namely the upcoming weekend.  I looked at the guest list.  None of the headliners appealed, but there was a long line of folks I hadn’t seen in years.  I used to hit Armadillocon just about every year, but since I moved to the other side of the state in 2010, I hadn’t gone.  The summer of 2009 was the last time I was there.

It was a last minute decision, but I was able to make it work.  Armadillocon was one of the first conventions I attended, and it was back at the hotel where it was held the first few years I went.  Nostalgia won out.

Because I literally didn’t register until a few minutes before the preregistration deadline and make my room reservation, I didn’t get the basic room but one a little fancier, at the end of the hall with a balcony.  I came in, noticed a few balloons tied to pieces of candy on the bed, and hit the restroom.  When I came out I saw some items that had been out of my field of view when I got in the room.  A bottle of bubbly on ice with two fluted glasses.  A card in an envelope with a woman’s name on it.  A cupcake alongside a smaller card containing the same same woman’s name.  A bouquet of birthday balloons.  Clearly the front desk had made a mistake. Continue reading

When the Shadows Bleed

Bleeding_Shadows_by_Joe_R_Lansdale_Trade_Edition_Dust_Jacket_200_296Bleeding Shadows
Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean
limited edition $100, trade edition sold out
ebook $6.99  Kindle Nook Kobo

Joe R. Lansdale has long been a major writer in the fields of horror, dark suspense, noir, and the just plain weird. Versatile at all lengths, you never know what type of story he’s going to write next.

Bleeding Shadows is a massive collection of some of his more recent work. This is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read by him. Containing 20 stories plus 10 poems, there’s quite a smorgasbord of entertainment, most of it dark. Continue reading

Howard Days 2013, Part 2

Today marks the 77th anniversary of Robert E. Howard’s passing.  I’ll be raising a glass later this evening in his memory.

Lansdale and Truman

After lunch, I swung by the post office and picked up some post cards with this year’s commemorative cancellation.  Then it was back to the library for the panels.  The first one featured GoH Tim Truman.  Joe Lansdale interviewed him.  Joe wasn’t on the original schedule but had driven over to see Tim.  They’ve worked together on a number of projects, including a Conan comic, The Songs of the Dead.  As is typical with old friends, their conversation flowed smoothly.  This panel was one of the highlights of the weekend.

I have to say that both of these guys were some of the most open and approachable pros I’ve ever met.  I’ve met Lansdale at a number of conventions, but this was my first time to meet Truman.  They never hesitated to sign something, pose for pictures, or just chat with fans.  They were both gentlemen.  The fact that they’re both fans of Howard helped, I’m sure, but that’s just how these guys are.  I hope they come back.

Rob and Bob Roehm

The next panel was Rob Roehm and his father Bob discussing how they got started traveling around doing research on the places Howard visited in his travels and identifying some of the places in the photos we have of Howard.  They showed the latest results of their research, identifying the bridge on which Howard and one of his friends are posing in a boxing stance.

Afterwards, I hung out at the Pavilion visiting with folks until it was time to go to the Banquet.  The Staghorn Cafe catered chicken fried steak, and it was excellent.  I put in some bids on a few items in the silent auction, winning most of them.  The speaker’s stand is in the photo to the left; the initials are old Conan comics.  There weren’t as many fans this year as in the past few years, but more people from Cross Plains attended.  This is a good thing because it means the community as a whole is getting more involved in continuing Howard’s legacy.

Tim Truman spoke how he discovered the works of Robert E. Howard and the impact that discovery has had on his life.  The REH Foundation Awards were given after dinner.  A complete list of the winners can be found here

Fists at the Ice House: (l. to r.) Gruber (foreground), Shanks, Finn

The last panel of the night was presented by Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeff Shanks.  “Fists at the Ice House” has been a popular panel for several years.  Started by Finn and Gruber, it takes place at what was once an ice house where Howard boxed in his early 20s.  Because the panel takes place outside, it was moved to an after dark event due to the relentless Texas sun and heat.  With the publication of the first volume of the collected boxing stories, Finn announced that this panel is going to be retired for a while.  I’ve never really gotten into boxing, but after listening to these guys discuss the role boxing played in REH’s life and read from his boxing stories, I’ve really come to appreciate that aspect of Howard’s work and personality.

Saturday was another great day (except for when I discovered the hard way the location of a yellow jacket nest outside the library).  The morning panel was Mark Finn interviewing Tim Truman and Joe Lansdale about working for Dark Horse comics.

Lunch

Lunch was the REH Foundation Legacy Circle luncheon.  The Tex-Mex was good (few people can make rellenos right), the company was great, and the perks were outstanding.  Although this year’s commemorative pin wasn’t ready, there were two newsletters.  The first was the regular newsletter.  The second was a special edition containing drafts of letters Howard wrote to HPL but never sent.  These letters are not included in A Means to Freedom and have not been published anywhere else.  Truly, membership does have its privileges.

After lunch Rusty Burke, Paul Herman, Joe Lansdale, and Mark Finn discussed Howard’s Texas.  The what’s up with REH panel back at the pavilion was pretty short.  No one from Paradox Entertainment, which owns the rights to Howard’s work, was in attendance this year, so there wasn’t any news about film deals.  The Foundation publishing schedule was announced, consisting mostly of boxing and westerns.

Jeff Shanks on Caddo Peak

Dinner that night was the traditional barbeque at Caddo Peak Ranch.  I hadn’t intended to climb the peak this year, but with the temperatures so low, I decided to make the trek.  At least this year there were no snakes. After dinner, picture taking, and watching the sunset, many of us returned to the Pavilion for poetry reading and general socializing.  I stayed until everything started to break up, then headed home.  Howard Days 2013 was over, and it was one of the best.

A special thanks is due to the members of Project Pride:  Arlene and Tom Stephenson , Era Lee Hanke, Diana Miller, Tom and Anne Rone, Larry and Nora Pointer, Betty Sue Adams, Don Clark, Janette Dugger, Kennith and Ann Beeler. Without those folks and their tireless work, Howard Days wouldn’t be what it is.

Photos continue below.

Watch out for the thorns.

The Guests of Honor pose with no one important.

Al Harron strikes a Howardian pose

Gruber and Finn discuss Howard’s works.
Sunset on the ranch

Another Halloween Treat

A Little Halloween Talk
Joe R. Lansdale
Cemetery Dance
ebook, $0.99

Here’s another little treat from Cemetery Dance’s 13 Days of Halloween.  It’s not one you want to share with the kiddies.

This one concerns a tryst in a graveyard that goes horribly wrong with the lady’s man interrupts her with his best friend.

I won’t give any more details away.  If you’ve ever read Lansdale, you know he can write in some of the most compelling voices in modern fiction.  This story is no exception.  The narrator tells his story in a laid back style that you know from the first page isn’t going to end well.  The reader is pulled in by his down home drawl.  Even though I was reading, not listening to an audiobook, I could still hear the guy’s voice as I read.

The plot is something out of EC Comics, something that should come as no surprise if you’ve read Lansdale.  This is a good thing, in case you were wondering.  I’ve read four or five of these Halloween shorts, and this one is easily my favorite so far.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

A Couple of Halloween Themed Anthologies

Halloween
Paula Guran, ed.
Prime Books
trade paper, 480 p., $14.95
ebook, $6.99 Kindle, Nook

This one came out last year, and I’ve only read a few of the stories in it.  Nor do I plan to read all of them, at least not this year.  I’ll take my time with this one and spread it out over several years.  In other words, this is more of an FYI post than a full-on review.  However, I’ve been impressed enough by the contents so far to feel I should bring this one to your attention.

First of all, this is a reprint anthology, and there is one difference between the print and electronic editions.  That’s the inclusion of Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Game”, which isn’t in the electronic edition.  Now if you recall, I have a very high regard for Bradbury, but I wish he hadn’t been so stubborn about electronic rights. “The Halloween Game” is a story that deserves to be in this book.

Even without Bradbury’s contribution, the table of contents is impressive.  The stories I’ve read include “Night Out” by Tina Rath and “On a Dark October” by Joe Lansdale.  Both are worth the read.  I”ll dip into this one again, at least to reread “Hornets” by Al Sarrantonio, which takes place in his fictional town of Orangefield.  I’ve just started reading one of the Orangefield novels, and it makes reference to the events in “Hornets”.

October Dreams
Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish, ed.
Roc
trade paper, 656 p., oop, various prices second hand

This one came out ten years ago (I think there was an earlier limited edition), and it’s been almost that long since I read it.  It contains a mix of memoir, reprint, and what at the time was new.  I don’t remember all of the stories well enough to try to do a full review, but this is one anthology I intend to revisit, something that doesn’t happen with much of what I read.  I probably won’t get to it this year since the library is still in a state of disarray since the move, but I recommend this book if you come across a copy or want to order it online.   It’s got some great stories in it.  Like Halloween, this is another anthology that’s perfect for dipping into on a evening when there’s a nip in the air and you’re not sure if the sound you hear is a branch scraping against the window in the wind or something else.

Blackbirds Coming Home to Roost

Blackbirds
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
UK/RoW
3 May 2012
320pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK

US/CAN
24 April 2012
320pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

eBook
24 April 2012
£4.49

This is a novel that will most likely appeal to fans of Joe R. Lansdale.  It’s a high octane ride through the dark recesses of humanity, a smashing blend of noir and the supernatural that combines the best of classic crime novels with downright genuine creepiness.

I absolutely loved it.  With one small exception.

That exception being the level of profanity, which is extremely high.  There comes a point above which I will put a book down if the profanity level reaches it simply because I’m trying to tune out the language to the point I can’t focus on the story.  This book passed that point, and not only did I keep reading, but I turned the pages as fast as I could.  I’m making an issue of this because I want you to understand how good the writing was to make me keep reading.  I can name on one hand the number of writers I will knowingly read who works contain that level of profanity.  Chuck Wendig is now numbered among them (as is the aforementioned Mr. Lansdale).

Part of the appeal is the voice Wendig uses to tell his story.  More on that in a bit.  In case you aren’t familiar with the plot, here’s a brief summary.  Miriam Black has a special ability, the ability to see how and when a person will die.  All it takes is a brief touch of skin on skin, a brushed elbow, a tap on the shoulder.  And it happens.  Completely involuntary.  As you can probably imagine, Miriam likes to wear layers.  Seeing all the ways people die can get to you after a while.  Miriam, like a blackbird, is a scavenger.  She uses her knowledge to be present when people die alone so she can go through their pockets for loose change.  And loose bills.  And loose credit cards.  And anything else that might be useful.

One night Miriam meets Louis, a long haul trucker who gives her a ride and gets her out of a tight situation.  When she shakes his hand, she learns that he’ll die a violent, painful death at the hands of someone else in one month.  And that she’ll be there to witness it.  So she tries to run.  In doing so, she meets Ashley.  What Miriam doesn’t know is that Ashley is a con man who knows there’s something unusual about Miriam, although he doesn’t know exactly what.  He just knows that he can use her in a scam, one which will eventually involve Louis, and so he’s been following her.  What Ashley doesn’t know is that there are people following him.

Bad people.  Very, very bad people.

The thing that made this book so refreshing to read was the voice Wendig used to tell it.  It’s by turns sardonic, funny, bleak, compelling.  And, yes, as I’ve already stated, profane.  It was only a few pages before I was caught up in the narrative, and then it was like literary crack.  I couldn’t get away from it.  Before it’s over, Miriam will have to face some things about herself, none of them pleasant, most of them consequences of the choices she’s made through the years.  All the chickens coming home to roost, although in this case they’re blackbirds.

And the humor.  I loved the humor.  It was gallows humor at its finest, subtle and dark and a perfect fit, from the chapter titles to the dialogue to the point of view.  The humor was needed as a counterpoint to all the times Miriam touched someone, or had someone touch her, and saw how they died.  There are a number of ways to die, most of them unpleasant.  Maybe it says something about me and my state of mental health, but I found this one of the most fascinating aspects of the book.

While this one may not be for everyone, it’s one of my favorites for the year.  Read the excerpt below and see what I mean. The book hits stores here in the states the day after tomorrow.

The sequel, Mockingbird, is due out at the end of August.  It’s going to be a long summer.

 

RIP, Ardath Mayhar

Ardath Mayhar, not afraid to use computer or gun

Martha Wells posted a notice on her blog a few minutes ago that Joe Lansdale is reporting Ardath Mayhar has passed away.  Mayhar was an SF/F author and SFWA Author Emeritus.  She was probably best known for her novel Golden Dream:  A Fuzzy Odyssey, one of several sequels to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy series. 

I don’t have any details other than what I’ve written above.  When more details become available, I’ll post them here.

I met Ardath a few times over the years at different Texas conventions.  I don’t recall all of them; the ones in the 90s are a little vague.  The first clear memory is when she attended the first Fencon in 2004, although I know I had met her previously.   She may have been at one or two other Fencons.  I hope there will be a memorial for her at this year’s event.

Ardath was a short, stocky lady who wore her hair in a tight bun, looking every bit like someone’s sweet grandmother.  She often had knitting in her hands, I suspect in part because the needles could be used as weapons.  For a while she allegedly carried a gun in her purse.  I don’t know if she ever actually did, but it would be consistent with her personality and makes a good story, true or not.  Ardath was the embodiment of feisty.  Until she was physically unable to do so, she would go for walks in the snake infested woods near where she lived in East Texas. 

Ardath was a blast to talk to.  The last time I saw Ardath was at the 2007 Nebula Awards in Austin, Texas, where she was awarded the title of Author Emeritus.  I sat in the lobby with several others and visited with her, mostly just listening.  I knew it was a rare opportunity I was unlikely to ever have again.  Someone else later voiced the same thought. 

Aradath Mayhar was the type of character we don’t have enough of these days.  She was also an accomplished writer.  I have several of her fantasy novels I’ve never gotten around to reading, in addition to the things I have read.  I may discuss one of them here later this year.