Book Trailer for Pilikia

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Joe R. Lansdale

In Sunday's newspaper (The Bryan/College Station Eagle), Glenn Dromgoole, who reviews books by Texas authors, had this to say about Joe:

Many readers may not be familiar with his writing. I confess I wasn't until last week when I sat down and read straight through two of his Hap and Leonard mysteries set in East Texas. Now, I'm a big fan.

I'm not surprised Dromgoole's become a big fan after reading some of Joe's books, but I am surprised he hadn't heard of Joe before now. I first learned about Joe when I moved to Texas and took a three-day writing workshop headed by Joe and Lew Shiner. That was twenty years ago. Joe had already attained a cult following with his book, The Drive-in. I thought I was the last person who hadn't heard of Joe R. Lansdale.

The workshop was an eye-opener. There were about twenty of us. Each submitted about ten pages of a manuscript. Everybody in the workshop had their chance to critique everybody else, but Joe and Lew did most of the critiquing. It was their opinions that everybody was there for anyway.

I submitted the first ten pages of a mystery novel that was nearly finished. It was about an amateur detective whose boss and mentor is murdered. That's really all I remember of the plot. The sleuth was not particularly adept at solving a crime, so I paired him with a kick-ass, former cop. Her name was Val Lyon.

Joe and Lew tore the story apart. They listed 11 points/suggestions. I don't remember all of them, although I took them all to heart. The first two, however, floored me. Number one was write the story from Val's point of view. Number two was tell it in the first person, if possible. If possible was underlined and followed by exclamation points like they were throwing up a challenge to me.

I thought, "Crap, I paid for this?"

We talked about it later. Joe told me to take risks, get out of my comfort zone. He said you can't be a good writer if you play it safe.

Thus was born the Val Lyon series. I finished that first book he critiqued. It was a lot better when told in Val's voice, but it never sold. But the second book, Pilikia Is My Business, did sell. Likewise a number of short stories. I have Joe R. Lansdale to thank for setting me on this road.

If you have never heard of Joe R. Lansdale, his Hap Collins and Leonard Pine series is being re-released by Vintage Books. Pick up the first one, Savage Season, and I guarantee you'll be hooked. To see how Joe handles a woman protagonist, read Sunset and Sawdust.


  1. Morgan Mandel said...

    No, I've never heard of Joe, but I have heard of switching POV to get more understanding of your characters. I'm glad he gave you something to take away with and use.

    Morgan Mandel