Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
Read by Angele Masters
Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min
Quick Thoughts: Edge of Dark Water is the pinnacle of an already wonderful writer’s career, bringing together everything this Lansdale does well, to offer a highly accessible tale that readers should flock to. Full of adventure, dark humor and colorful characters, if you have yet to take a trip with Joe R. Lansdale there is plenty of room on this raft.
Going over the archives of this blog I was surprised that I have never reviewed a Joe R. Lansdale audiobook. Now, I have one review on this site of Joe R. Lansdale’s Devil Red, but that was in print. In 2010, before I started this blog, I went on a Joe R. Lansdale audiobook kick. I had read a few of his short stories in anthologies, and one of his novels, Bubbah Ho-Tep, before but that was all the exposure of him I had. Then I listened to Savage Season, his first Hap & Leonard novel. I instantly fell in love with the writing, the characters and the brilliant narrator, Phil Gigante. I spent close to the next month listening to all the Hap and Leonard novels and A Fine Dark Line. It was wonderful. I thought that in that time I leaned much of Joe R. Lansdale, his wonderful writing, laugh out loud dialogue, brutal violence and touching sense of family. Then I listened to The Bottoms. Then I read The Bottoms. Then I bough copies of The Bottoms for my friends and pestered them until they read it. I’m even ready to pause here while you go read The Bottoms. Done? OK. The Bottoms was probably my favorite read of the past 10 years. So, when I discovered that that Lansdale’s newest Edge of Dark Water was coming out, and the author was calling it perhaps his best work, how exactly was I supposed to resist. I wasn’t.
In Edge of Dark Water Joe R. Lansdale does what he does best, takes classic story elements that readers are comfortable with and meshes them together into something that truly stands out. Lansdale revisits the time and settings of The Bottoms to tell a coming of age story that echoes Stephen King and Robert McCammon as much as it does Mark Twain. May Lyn, our sixteen your old protagonist, has resigned to the life she is destined to in depression era rural Texas. She has given up on her education, and spends her time with her best friends, Jinx, a colored girl, and Terry, who may very well be a sissy. She’s just biding time, trying to keep her father from sneaking into bed with her, until she becomes some man’s wife. Yet, the murder of a friend sets loose a series of events that leads her and her friends down the Sabine River on the run from her father, the law and a legendary and brutal tracker named Skunk. While Edge of Dark Water is a harrowing trip down a dangerous river, it is also a historical glimpse of a desperate American past that is eerily similar to our present. Lansdale offers a beautiful mosaic of depression era characters, from a desperate family escaping the near apocalyptic Dust Bowl, to a bitter old woman who longs for the day when her family owned a working plantation as well as slaves. May Lyn is a wonderfully drawn character, seemingly simple but as the situation forces her to expand her horizons, shows surprising depths. As always, Lansdale prose is crisp and direct. He uses an economy of words that helps keep the pace tight, and the action vivid, yet can communicate a surprising amount of emotions for its simplicity. The ending pulls everything together nicely, highlighting the growth of the characters and presenting a bit of hope in a desperate age. Along with The Bottoms, Edge of Dark Water is the pinnacle of an already wonderful writer’s career, bringing together everything this writer does well, to offer a highly accessible tale that readers should flock to. Full of adventure, dark humor and colorful characters, if you have yet to take a trip with Joe R. Lansdale there is plenty of room on this raft.
Edge of Dark Water was narrated by Angele Masters. The most important part of narrating a first person tale is to give an authentic voice to the main character. Masters soft yet rich Southern accent captures May Lyn well. The accent never comes off forced or authentic, giving the character a very organic feel. Masters captures May Lyn’s naiveté, and allows her voice to grow and change with the character culminating in a wonderfully delivered closing of the book where both author and narrator give us a glimpse of the woman she is to become. Masters voices the other characters with mixed results. She captured many of the more colorful character perfectly with humor and vitality, but some of the older characters, particularly May Lyn’s mother and the Preacher had a tendency to sound alike. Other than that one small complaint, Edge of Dark Water translates wonderfully to audio, with an excellent performance by a narrator to watch out for.
Note: A special thanks to the good people of Hachette Audio for providing me a copy of this title for review. Edge of Dark Water will be released in Hardcover, Ebook, and Audiobook format on March 27th.