The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books • $26 • ISBN 9780316188456
Published September 10
If you finished The Son hungry for more tales from Texas, we have the next great read for you. Versatile novelist Joe R. Lansdale's latest is a turn-of-the-century coming-of-age story set in hardscrabble East Texas. Recently orphaned Jack Parker must grow up fast when his sister, Lula, is kidnapped by bandits. Teaming up with a bounty hunter, a dwarf and a grave-digger, Jack sets out on a quest to find and rescue Lula.
Told in Jack's straightforward, plainspoken voice, The Thicket brings to mind Western classics like True Grit or Joe David Brown's Paper Moon or even Huckleberry Finn.
Now, it may seem I was taking all this damn well, the death of my parents, but I assure you I was not. I had sort of seen it coming for a few days, and there had been so much death about I guess I had embraced thew hole thing better than I might had I just got up and found them dead without any sign of sickness. . . .
Still, down deep in my bones, and I'm sure it was the same with Lula, and even Grandpa for that patter, I was trying to get my heart and head wrapped around the idea that they had been taken so brutally and so quickly from us. It was like I was too dry to cry. I wanted to, but couldn't. Lula was the same way. That's how we Parkers were. We took what came the way it came. Least it was that was on the surface. You scratched us a little, though, you could find some jelly there pretty quick. We were the kind that found it hard to cry, but once we got started you best be ready for high water and the loading of animals two by two.
What are you reading this week?
Forget Paris or New York City—Smithville, Texas, is the town to visit if you want to add some drama to your life. The filming location for several Hollywood hits, it's also the setting of Beth Wiseman's new novel, The House That Love Built, which goes on sale today and was reviewed in our April issue. In a guest blog post, Wiseman explains why Smithville makes a terrific setting for stories.
I love writing stories that take place in Texas small towns. I chose Smithville as the locale for The House That Love Built because of the quaintness and friendly people. Lots of movies have been filmed in Smithville—Hope Floats and Tree of Life, just to name a couple.
The town is charming and filled with historic sites. It’s the perfect place for my hero to start over and purchase a turn-of-the-century house to restore—complete with a secret bunker! It was fun to write a romance while also weaving in the mysteries surrounding the house. My inspiration for the secret room actually came from a house in the small Texas town of Schulenburg. A friend restored his house, and in the basement, there was a bookshelf that opened into a secret room.
I enjoy a good love story, but I write the way I like to read—with more going on than just "boy meets girl." I like to get into the heads of all the characters. This story has a secondary romance, an eccentric uncle, the town’s teenage troublemaker and even a finicky cat. Smithville was the perfect place to set this fun story.
Smithville’s claim to fame is two-fold. It is the first city in Texas to receive the “Film Friendly City” designation from the Texas Film Commission, and the city is also home to world’s largest gingerbread man, earning a place in the Guinness World Records in 2008. The giant cookie weighed over 1,300 pounds, and the mold used to make “Smitty” is on display next to the Chamber of Commerce office. Smithville is about 30 miles from my house, and it always makes for a good day of shopping and lunch.
The House That Love Built is about second chances, the power of forgiveness, and how God puts people in our lives, even though we can’t always foresee His plan.
Thanks, Beth! For more about Beth Wiseman, visit her on Facebook or explore her website. You can also check out the quaint town of Smithville online. And don't miss our review of The House That Love Built.
Kathleen Kent's two historical novels, set in 17th-century New England, have been big hits with BookPage readers. Both were based on the lives of her ancestors—she told us a little more about one of them in a Behind the Book story last fall.
Her upcoming novel is set in her home state of Texas, and it's a big leap forward for the author—history-wise, at least. It's set during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. Kent described the book on her Facebook page as something "very different in tone [that] confronts a lot of issues that are still with us today."
At the Texas Book Festival last year, she told readers, "I love Texas history. I'd been working on those books for seven years—the first two—and I needed, I wanted to do something different, to take a fresh approach to writing fiction."
The Reconstruction is a fascinating time period that is still relatively underexposed in fiction (Paulette Jiles' Enemy Women being a remarkable exception). We're looking forward to seeing what Kent does with it when her book is released next year.
Her first two books, twisting history with mysticism, traced back through Kent's own heritage, who is a tenth-generation descendant of her heroine Martha Carrier. Check out The Wolves of Andover Behind the Book by Kent, whose research is only second to her lovely prose in crafting a memorable story.
Middle Bayou is reportedly set in 19th-century Texas. It continues with Kent's gift for mixing history with legend (or perhaps superstition) as it includes pirates, buried treasure and murder. Not to mention it features another tough female protagonist, which sounds like Kent at her best.
Are you excited for Kent's next book? What is your favorite so far?
Philipp Meyer's debut, American Rust (Random House), was one of the most acclaimed novels of 2009. Now word comes that Meyer (one of The New Yorker's Best 20 Writers Under 40) will publish a second novel in 2012 with Ecco.
The Son focuses on three generations of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete's daughter Jeanne. Each face their own challenges—Comanche raiders, border wars and a changing civilization, respectively. Meyer is an expert at detailing the hardscrabble side of American life. Though Texas is a long way from the Pennsylvania setting he portrayed with such elegiac beauty in American Rust, there are thematic echoes in the descriptions of the two novels. My humble prediction: this one'll be on the "Galleys to Grab" list for BEA 2012.