Saturday, January 06, 2007

By Joe R. Lansdale

Bumper Crop is Joe R. Lasnsdale’s follow up to High Cotton. While High Cotton features the Mojo Storyteller at his most outrageous, Bumper Crop is in, I won’t say a gentler, but a less extreme vein.

That is partly by design I believe. Bumper Crop features many of the best short stories that Lansdale wrote during his early years. Twilight Zone magazine was a principal market and T.E.D. Klein bought many of these tales. Lansdale’s distinctive style of storytelling is still developing here. The tales are polished and professional, and not quite as over the top as his later "Southern Gothic" work.

That is not to say these are less appealing, indeed they may be more so! These stories reflect a period of success in the magazine markets. Lansdale outlines his transition to the style epitomized by “The Pit” and “By Bizarre Hands”, it was not a happy one. The story “Bestsellers Guaranteed”, which reveals the nexus of conspiracy theory and publishing, is an arch response to the frustration he felt as editors declined to buy his new style tales.

There are many gems in Bumper Crop. “Fish Night”, a yarn about two men stranded in the desert on a magic night, is beautiful, mythic, and horrific all at the same time. “In the Cold Dark Time” reveals the ferocity that lurks behind good intentions in wartime. “Fire Dog” is a hilarious take on work, relationships, and identity, like something Kafka would have written if he came from Nacogdoches.

There are many, many more tales of outstanding quality in Bumper Crop. All together there are 26 stories in this book, many of them are quite short (Like Ambrose Bierce, Lansdale packs a big wallop in few words). Bumper Crop is an abundant harvest of good storytelling.
-Dave Hardy

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