A Writer Reviewing Books: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
The Writer’s Voice: Wonderful
Descriptiveness: Not too much, not too little, just right Goldilocks
On a scale of ‘Can’t put it down’: It was fairly tough to put down, but it did take me about a week to read it. That’s saying something though, because I struggle to find reading time. Not my favorite book ever, but it was good enough that I remained more engaged than usual.
Before Edge of Dark Water I had never read anything by Joe R. Lansdale. In fact, until about a year ago I wasn’t even familiar with the name Joe R. Lansdale. Then one of my publishers threatened to slap me if I didn’t read something of his. Obviously, reading a book is better than getting slapped any day, but in hindsight, I should probably let her slap me anyway. Joe R. Lansdale is an incredible writer.
When I opened Edge of Dark Water, the first thing I read was an introduction by another author, comparing Edge of Dark Water to the works of Mark Twain. I thought this was rather bold, but I shrugged it off and thought to myself, it’s going to have to be really good to live up to that. It did.
In fact, Joe R. Lansdale may be the best writer that I’ve ever read. To be clear, I’m not saying that this was my favorite book ever. It was absolutely wonderful, and I’ll get to that. I’m not even saying that Joe R. Lansdale is my favorite author. What I am saying is that he may be the most complete writer I’ve ever read. Every writer has their own unique voice. Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. Some over explain things. Some under explain things. Some aren’t great at dialogue. Some aren’t great at writing action scenes. In my humble opinion, Joe R. Lansdale has none of these weaknesses. He seems to have completely mastered the craft.
Edge of Dark Water follows a teenage girl living in Texas. When a friend of hers turns up dead, she and her friends decide to take the girl’s ashes to Hollywood along with some stolen money. Simple enough? Well, it’s quite a bit more complex actually, but I don’t really know how to explain more without ruining key elements of the story. Let’s say that the main character isn’t living under the best of circumstances, and there are plenty of twists along the way. Oh, and they are being chased by a complete psycho who’s only rumored to exist. In fall fairness, there’s no shortage of seedy characters throughout the story.
This story is complex, and you honestly never really know what’s going to happen next. Let’s be honest, a lot of stories are rather predictable. This one isn’t. There’s a Who Done It aspect that I certainly didn’t see coming. Also, I really loved the character of Skunk. There’s really nothing like a great villain to bring a story to life.
At the end of the day, Edge of Dark Water is a wonderful Huck Finn style story written by a brilliant author. If you like stories of that style, or just like reading in general, I would recommend this book. If you are a writer or aspiring writer, I think Joe can teach us all a thing or two about the craft. You won’t see me shying away from the Joe R. Lansdale section at the book store. In fact, I’m really looking forward to reading something by him again soon.
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About me, the reviewer...
Phillip Drayer Duncan is the author of 4 published novels and 12 short stories. He has work published with Yard Dog Press, Pro Se Productions, and Seventh Star Press.