Audiobook Review: Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

12 02 2018

Fender Lizards

Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Kasey Lansdale

SkyBoat Media

Grade: B+

I had no idea what I was getting when, on a whim, I downloaded Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale. Lansdale is a favorite of mine. He writes in many genres and so you never know what you are gonna get when you leap blindly into his world. And, as often is the case, what I got was something I didn’t quite expect yet fell in love with. Fender Lizards is basically a book about a roller skating waitress who decides to start a Roller Derby team. Lansdale takes this simple story and makes it come alive with witty dialogue, an engaging main character and lots of humor. Fender Lizards is like a spontaneous road trip with a fun new friend. You don’t know where exactly you’re heading but you sure as hell are enjoying the ride.

Kasey Lansdale handles the narration with simple lovable charm. Fender Lizards is a first person tale, and Kasey becomes Dot. She infuses the tale with an almost musical style, using an upbeat tempo and catchy twang to fully pull the listener into the story. It seams impossible not to like Dot, and even when she can be frustrating, she’s like cute little sister frustrating. Fender Lizards is a prime example of how fun a well told story with engaging character can be when brought to life by a talented performer.

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Audiobook Review: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

22 03 2012

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Angele Masters

Hachette Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Thriller

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.

Grade: A-

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.





EBook Review: Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale

5 02 2012

Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine Series, Bk. 8)

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group/Random House, Inc.

Pages: 224

Format: eBook

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Devil Red has all the classic Hap and Leonard qualities, a tight plot, laugh out loud moments, deadly enemies, and tons and tons of heart. Reading Lansdale as opposed to listening allowed me to experience his technical prowess as a writer from a new perspective, although I did miss Gigante’s mastery of dialogue and the comic timing that he excels at, especially in this series.

 

Devil Red is the first book I have ever read by Joe R. Lansdale. I first discovered Lansdale about a year and a half ago in audiobook form. I had heard the name before, in conjunction with the movie Bubba Ho Tep, and occasionally mentioned on horror writer Brian Keene’s website forum. The first novel by Lansdale I ever listened to was Savage Season, the first Hap and Leonard book. I found it brutal and brilliant and its main characters were so unlike any others I had read before. It also was the second novel I had ever heard narrated by Phil Gigante (the first being Ultimatum by Matthew Glass) and it sky rocketed him up to one of my favorite narrators. I then went on to listen to the entire Hap and Leonard series, as well as a few of his excellent standalones including A Fine Dark Line and The Bottoms. Both highly recommended. When the latest Hap and Leonard novel Devil Red came out, I waited impatiently for the audiobook version, but discovered, after bugging a few people including the author himself, that there would be no audiobook. So, for the first time, I would be experiencing one of my favorite literary duos in print form.

After handling some unseemly business with a local hood who robbed an old lady, Hap and Leonard are brought in by their friend, and sometimes employer Marvin, a Private Investigator. A client wants Marvin to look into the death of her son and his girlfriend who happened to be a member of a weird vampire cult. What looks like a random robbery gone bad, turns out to be more when they discover the mark of a Red Devil at the scene, a signature found at a large number of murders. As usually, this leads to the kind of violence and mayhem that Hap and Leonard often find themselves in whether prepared for it or not. One thing I discovered by reading is how simple Lansdale’s writing style is. He manages to use an economy of words that is amazing when you realize how much depth they display. This is the style that is easy to underestimate, and it eventually wallops you in the head with its emotional impact. While the action is crisp and the violence brutal, the heart of this story is the relationship between Hap and Leonard. Despite differing in race, intelligence and even sexual preference these two characters are more than brothers. Both characters experience life threatening breakdowns, one mental and one physical, and it’s literally the love they share that helps guide the other during these moments. As always the dialogue is hilarious, each brother pointing out the other’s foibles, from Hap’s sensitivity to Leonard’s choice of hat, in a loving brutal honesty that makes you laugh every time. Devil Red has all the classic Hap and Leonard qualities, a tight plot, laugh out loud moments, deadly enemies, and tons and tons of heart. Reading Lansdale as opposed to listening allowed me to experience his technical prowess as a writer from a new perspective, although I did miss Gigante’s mastery of dialogue and the comic timing that he excels at, especially in this series.

 

For the audiobook versions of The Hap and Leonard Series, check out Audible’s series listing.