Joe R. Lansdale Interview: The Thicket and Beyond!

Joe R. Lansdale, one of the most celebrated genre fiction authors of the last few decades, was kind enough to chat with Den of Geek about his upcoming novel, The Thicket, and more from his illustrious career!

If you haven’t read anything by Joe Lansdale, you are missing out on one of the most vital voices in contemporary fiction. Lansdale is a master at character, pacing, and humor, and his voice is like being told a fascinating story by a trusted uncle who sees the world with clarity and an eye for detail. Lansdale crosses genres like most people cross streets, perfecting horror, mystery, crime, and historical fiction. Fans might be familiar with his work on the Vertigo Jonah Hex mini-series and multiple episodes of Batman and Superman: The Animated Series. In this exclusive Den of Geek interview, Joe Lansdale discusses his upcoming historical novel, The Thicket, his past works, how he uses familial ties to inspire his creative process.Here is the official description of The Thicket due to hit shelves on September 10th, 2013:Love and vengeance at the dark dawn of the East Texas oil boom from Joe Lansdale, “a true American original” (Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box). Jack Parker thought he’d already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas–orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula. Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle’s farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack’s grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who’s come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack’s extended family to boot). In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place. Oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. But as Jack’s about to find out, blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me–the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called “as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain” (New York Times Book Review)Den of Geek: This seems to be a setting you return to again and again. As a writer, what about turn of the century or Depression-era Texas keeps drawing you back?Joe R. Lansdale: I can’t answer that with certainty, but part of it is that my parents were older when I was born, my dad early forties, my mom late thirties. My dad was born in 1909, my mother in 1914, I believe. Their life experiences were different than younger parents, so I grew up with a different perspective. My grandmother on my mother’s side lived to nearly 100 years old, and she had seen Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as a little girl, and had come to Texas by covered wagon.My parents had become adults during the Great Depression, as had many of my aunts and uncles, so I got stories from all of them. They are fastened up inside me, and now and again they have to come out. Also, during my youth the most popular kind of TV show, movie, or book, was the Western, and there were a lot of them. I didn’t read Western novels much until I was in my twenties, but I had a diet of them on film and TV, as well as other things, of course. Probably Science Fiction and Horror were most important to me as child, but the other was there and I loved the films, especially John Ford, and later so many others. That’s bound to have something to do with it.DoG: Can you discuss how tragedy motivates Jack Parker?JRL: Tragedy is something that can destroy a person, or inspire and motivate them. It’s that simple. There is a tragedy and a loss of parent and grandfather, but his sister was last seen alive, so he latches onto that, and along the way creates, un-consciously, a new family. I’ve noticed that my friend Andrew Vachss does that a lot in his novels as well. I like that you can have your own family, but that you can also create family. It’s not about blood, it’s about bond.