Dread Island by Joe R. Lansdale, © 2010 trade paperback, IDW
This is the 17th in my series of Forgotten Books
This week we are going to look at a book that is not so much “Forgotten” as “Not Yet Known”. Theoretically this book is not yet out. IDW decided to get in on the whole literary mashup thing. You know books like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and ANDROID KARENINA and the like. They asked several writers to take part in a series to be called CLASSICS MUTILATED. According to the PR, these folks included Nancy Collins, Rick Hautala, Tom Piccirrilli, Mike Resnick and many more. Take two or more literary ideas and smash them together and see what ticks. I could see something like THE OLD MAN, THE SEA, AND MOBY DICK where a philosophical sailor goes to find meaning in life and gets smashed up by the White Whale. Or perhaps THE GREAT DRACULA where all the beautiful jazz age people are really vampires. I mean, who would notice? They were never out in the daytime anyway.
So, here we have Joe R. Lansdale. I feel it is necessary to say up front that I have a hard time being unbiased about Joe’s work. He and I are good friends. We have been for a long time. This is true of many of the books I review here. I know these folks. I have known many of the writers of science fiction over the last 40 or so years. I have met hundreds, gotten many autographs, become friends with more than a few. Among my favorites have been that unholy quartet of Texas writers – Joe Lansdale, Neal Barrett Jr,. Bill Crider and James Reasoner. We have all known each other a long time and had many fine adventures. Joe has bought stories from me. I have bought from Neal, Bill and James. Joe has bought from them too.
Anyway, just so the record is clear. We are good friends and I will not write bad things about him. Fortunately I never need to. Joe’s fiction is entertaining and wild and inventive and messed up. Given your choice of all literature to mash up, you might pick on Mark Twain. That would be right. One of the greatest of all American writers. So who to mash with? How about Dante? The Divine Comedy would really be funny then. Or Dashiell Hammett? That might be fun combining The Maltese Falcon and Puddin’head Wilson. Does Joe get sensible here and do that? No! He decides to combine Twain and Harris. And not even Frank Harris! That would be a new CATCHER IN THE RYE. No, we are talking Joel Chandler Harris. Unce Remus.
Huck and Jim are approached by Becky Thatcher. It seems Tom and another guy have gone off in search of Dread Island, a magical place that appears in the Mississippi on the first night of the full moon. The island is inhabited by the Brer People, who may not really be people.
Anyway Tom is missing and it is late and Huck and Jim have to go rescue him. Seems a little tight on the time frame, so it must be winter when the night is longer. They reach the island, encounter Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and others of Chandler’s creations. But that is not all. There are some surprises including special guest stars. Similar in tone to ZEPPELINS WEST, that insane tale of airships, Ned the Seal, Wild Bill, Annie Oakley and the head of Buffalo Bill, DREAD ISLAND is a short rollicking trip through the mad landscapes of Lansdale’s mind. It is highly recommended.
The official publication date is October 2010, I think. The website is a little confusing on the date, but IDW put out an edition of 400 copies for ComicCon in July. I heard about this after the fact and thought I would not be able to get that edition without shelling out huge shekels. Not so! IDW still had it on their website the other day for the issue price of $15 plus shipping. A pretty fair bargain. Theoretically there are 900 copies of the various editions – 400 ComicCon trade paperbacks, 500 signed hardcovers, and 100 Signed and Numbered leather bound copies. I may not have mastered the new math of the 1960’s but that sounds vaguely like 1,000 copies rather than 900 to me, but never mind that. Get yourself a copy before they are gone. It’s only about 90 pages and $15 can’t be beat for that.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.