cover image The Big Blow

The Big Blow

Joe R. Lansdale. Subterranean Press, $25 (162pp) ISBN 978-1-892284-98-3

With hundreds of short stories and over a dozen novels to his credit, the prolific and versatile award-winning Texas storytellerDbest known for his series featuring the mismatched East Texas private eyes Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (Bad Chili)Dstrives for darker irony in this often vulgar, sometimes bittersweet, patchwork novella depicting a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah. The narrative builds an atmosphere of impending doom in the lives of a group of blithely unsuspecting denizens during the four days preceding the 1900 Galveston hurricane, considered by many as the most devastating North American natural disaster of the 20th century. On September 4, 1900, Isaac Cline, the Galveston, Tex., weatherman, receives an official telegram from the Weather Bureau in Washington: ""Tropical storm disturbance moving northward over Cuba."" That same afternoon, prizefighter John McBride arrives from Chicago, scheduled to fight the local heavyweight champion, a black man named ""Lil"" Arthur Johnson. Sponsored by a group of racist white businessmen, McBride is offered a $500 bonus if he kills Johnson in the fight. The next day the Washington Bureau warns that the tropical disturbance is moving northwest toward the Keys and could become dangerous. But there is no hint of danger in the balmy air as a romantic young woman loses her virginity to an opportunistic young gigolo on the beach. As the storm nears, two battered whores, a ship's captain sailing for Pensacola, a couple with a new baby, the betrayed virgin and the pugilists are all unprepared for approaching disaster. Despite the bare-knuckle prose, there is a heavy sense of karma lurking here. Lansdale's fans will snap it up. (Nov.)