Thursday, December 28, 2006

By Joe R. Lansdale

When I tell people about the premise of Zeppelins West, they look at me kind of funny. I don’t know why, it’s really quite simple, Buffalo Bill Cody’s disembodied head is flying his Wild West show on their zeppelin to Japan with Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, and Sitting Bull in attendance. It’s more than just a show since they are there to locate Frankenstein’s monster, who is being held captive by a samurai warlord who is slowly reducing the monster into an aphrodisiac powder. The story doesn’t actually get weird until later on the hidden island of… well I don’t want to give away too much.

Lansdale has always been the kind of writer who blended genres. Here he has poured all of 19th century popular fiction into a blender and then yanked off the lid. The result is less a splatter than a whacked-out Rorshack test where the repressed returns like a crazy, sexy ex-girlfriend, a lot of fun but kind of scary too.

Believe me, this stuff is FUNNY. I can read a lot of stuff that folks call funny without cracking a smile. But Lansdale cracks me up every few pages. Buffalo Bill’s marital difficulties are narrated with an understated zest that would have done Mark Twain proud. The story of how the carnivores and the plant eaters got liquored up on fruit juice and decided on a new dietary law gets me laughing just thinking about it. Zeppelins is a fractured fairy-tale told in an off-color Oz.

I am going to assert right here that Joe Lansdale is one of the unique voices of American letters, a post-modern Mark Twain. If you don’t believe me, just read Zeppelins West.
-Dave Hardy

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