The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

The Bard of East Texas is back, this time with the turn-of-the-twentieth-century coming-of-age tale of 16-year-old Jack Parker and his 14-year-old sister, Lula. Still shocked by the sudden deaths of their parents from smallpox, they see their grandfather murdered by outlaws, who then abduct Lula. The same outlaws have killed the sheriff Jack hopes will rescue Lula, and Jack must turn to bounty hunters Eustace Cox and Shorty. Eustace is a black man who carries a giant shotgun; his constant companion is a 600-pound feral hog. Shorty is a dwarf with an attitude who was taught to shoot by Annie Oakley.

Their bond is the discrimination they face, and they are willing to chase the outlaws into the primordial and lawless deep woods of East Texas’ Big Thicket. Lansdale’s premise seems borrowed in part from Charles Portis’ True Grit. But anyone who knows Lansdale knows he will put his own spin on the material. He has been writing brilliantly about East Texas for three decades (in both historical fiction and his contemporary series starring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine), but never has the region appeared stranger or more violent than it does here. The oil boom has begun, and Jack, a naive and pious farm boy, is introduced to boomtowns, brothels, lynchings, and all manner of new things. Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place, and an impressive body count make The Thicket another Lansdale treasure. –review by Thomas Gaughan


Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His story “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road” was adapted to film for Showtime’s “Masters of Horror.” He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero. He is Writer In Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University, and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.