Joe Lansdale is kind of like a genre-fiction Ted Williams–he’s been remarkably consistent over his long career, and he’s way out in left field. Lansdale has won eight Bram Stoker Awards, one of the horror genre’s top honors, and has published a nearly endless list of horror, fantasy and mystery novels, short stories and screenplays. He’s also contributed to comic books, cartoons, and just about any other format you can think of that uses words to tell dark, twisted stories. He even contributes to the Observer from time to time.
Lansdale’s work is often… err… unique. Who else would imagine an epic, profane battle between Elvis, JFK, and a mummy named Bubba? But his stories also delve into deeper issues. His Hap and Leonard series, for instance, explores government corruption, racism and poverty in East Texas through the crime-fighting partnership of white, blue-collar Hap and black, gay, Vietnam vet Leonard. Like many of Lansdale’s tales, the duo’s 10-book story is at turns violent and hilarious.
As strange as his work can be, Lansdale has been making moves beyond the sometimes-claustrophobic world of genre fiction. In a New York Times piece last year, Texas Monthly‘s Christopher Kelly held Lansdale up as a writer who can transcend category to capture the attention of a larger audience. According to Kelly, Lansdale is at the vanguard of a trend in which so-called genre writers are garnering increasing critical and commercial validation in the larger literary world.
Lansdale’s creative gifts must be at least somewhat hereditary. His daughter Kasey has a blooming career of her own as a country singer-songwriter, and also works as a literary editor. She released a new album, Restless, back in August, and her latest editorial effort, Impossible Monsters, features the work of her father and notables including Neil Gaiman and Charlaine Harris.
Both Lansdales will be at BookPeople at 7 pm on September 12. Kasey will discuss Impossible Monsters, while Joe will talk about his latest, a suspenseful romp through the early Texas oilfields called The Thicket, which continues his transcendence of the genre label.