The Bottoms

Joe R. Lansdale, Author Mysterious Press $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-89296-704-9
In his latest suspense thriller, prolific yarn-spinner Lansdale, best known for his offbeat series featuring the mismatched East Texas Sherlocks Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (Bad Chili), presents a different voice in a coming-of-age story set in the early years of the Great Depression. Lansdale's 80-something protagonist, Harry Crane, looks back to the day in 1933 when he was 13 and, with his nine-year-old sister, Tom (Thomasina), he found the mutilated corpse of a black prostitute bound to a tree with barbed wire near their home along the hardscrabble bottomlands of the Sabine River. The discovery presents their father, Jacob Crane--a farmer and barber eking out a living as the town constable--with a nightmarish investigation. News travels slowly in the days before television, but Jacob learns from the black doctor who performs the makeshift autopsy that two other mutilated bodies have been found over the last 18 months. Because the victims are black and ""harlots,"" no one in the county much cares. But when the body of a white prostitute is discovered, a rabid mob lynches Moses--a black man who has been something of a surrogate father to Jacob--despite Jacob and Harry's heroic efforts to save him. Predictably, another body is soon discovered. Lansdale is best when recreating the East Texas dialogue and setting. Readers will not have to work hard to unearth comparisons to characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, but gruesome details of the murders keep the novel from being labeled a period piece. Folksy and bittersweet, though rather rough-hewn and uneven, Lansdale's novel treats themes still sadly pertinent today. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Hardcover - 350 pages - 978-1-892284-60-0
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