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Sunset and Sawdust Hardcover – March 16, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* Whether he's writing Hap Collins-Leonard Pine mysteries, genre-bending horror novels, or his own blend of historical fiction and gritty country noir, cult-favorite Lansdale rarely hits a wrong note. He's a superb stylist and a first-rate storyteller, and his sandpaper wit never fails to scratch out a brand of humor that hovers somewhere between knee-slap funny and painfully revelatory. He's in his country-noir mode here, in what just may be his best novel yet. The tale begins with a hold-your-breath set piece in which red-haired beauty Sunset Jones kills her husband, Pete, who happened to be raping her at the time. Given all that, it comes as a surprise to the residents of Camp Rapture, an ironically named sawmill settlement in Depression-era East Texas, when Sunset's mother-in-law, majority owner of the mill, arranges to have Sunset replace Pete as the settlement's constable. Soon enough, Sunset--with the help of two deputies, both with romantic designs on their boss--is investigating the murder of a woman and her unborn child, a crime that may implicate Pete. Lansdale layers the mystery elements skillfully, building to an action-filled climax, but where he really shines is in his evocation of both the desperation and the determination that grew from the dirt of the Depression. Sunset is a marvelous character; you don't see many feminist heroines in the femme-fatale world of noir, which makes her emergence, her coming-of-age in an age set firmly against her, so exhilarating. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“[Sunset and Sawdust is] filled with turns and twists, nastiness, broad humor, moments of grace. . . . Lansdale is a storyteller in the great American tradition.” –The Boston Globe

“A wonderfully nasty piece of work [that] inspires I-can’t-believe-this laughter. . . . Very entertaining.” –Newsday

The opening . . . will grab unsuspecting readers by the lapels and pull them right in. . . . Lansdale's prose--laconic and sarcastic--is so thick with slang and regional accent that it's as tasty as a well-cured piece of beef jerky." --The Denver Post

"Lansdale is an exceptional storyteller . . . readers will feel the Texas heat and hear the story in the author's unique East Texas drawl. The vivid characterization will make readers cheer for the protagonist and boo the villain." --Rocky Mountain News

“Delivers the unexpected and bizarre that his fans have come to expect. . . . The narrative is entertaining, but Lansdale’s patently unvarnished storytelling–backwoods and brash all at once–is the real reason to crack this cover.” --Texas Monthly

"Funny, bloody and bizarre. . . . Another five-star doozy of a tale from an immensely talented and original storyteller." --The Flint Journal

“Sunset Jones is the kind of woman that men who drink in East Texas bars would call a ‘pistol.’ As a tornado rips through the sawmill camp town of Rapture, in the rousing opening scene of Joe R. Lansdale’s historical barnburner Sunset and Sawdust, Sunset finally puts a stop to her husband Pete’s bloody beatings. . . . Soon Sunset has her own posse, including a wonderful dog whose abject adoration of the fiery gunslinger pretty much sums up this reader’s feelings.” --The New York Times Book Review

"A first-rate whodunnit. . . . [Lansdale] knows how to tell a story." --The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Sly, easy-paced and so comfortable in its setting that it becomes almost seductive. This is what good storytelling is all about.” --Arizona Republic

"Lansdale can catch that meandering East Texas twang in his writing, but just as quickly he can tighten the plot and our stomachs with a turn of phrase. . . . Lansdale gives us both atmosphere and action." --Winston-Salem Journal

"Surrealistic. . . . Unpredictable. . . . A darker kind of storytelling." --Pittsburg Tribune-Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414534
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies.

Lansdale has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others.

A major motion picture based on Lansdale's crime thriller Cold in July was released in May 2014, starring Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice). His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His story "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was adapted to film for Showtime's "Masters of Horror." He is currently co-producing a TV series, "Hap and Leonard" for the Sundance Channel and films including The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero.

Lansdale is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's the depression era in East Texas. The Klu Klux Klan is active and many Texas men believe that if they smack their wives around, they won't be held accountable for their actions.

Constable Pete Jones comes home drunk and beats his wife, Sunset, and is in the process of raping her when she reaches for his revolver and puts a bullet in his head, killing him.

Since the tiny sawmill town of Camp Rapture, Texas, is now without a law enforcement officer, at a camp meeting, with the help of Sunset's mother-in-law who is a majority owner of the sawmill, Sunset is appointed the new constable on a trial basis. She will be assisted by Clyde Fox and a new man in town who goes by the nickname, Hillbilly.

Soon after her appointment, a body of a dead child is found in the land of the only black farmer in the area. Not long after that, a woman's body is found, shot and covered with oil.

To the surprise of many, Sunset takes her job seriously and tries to learn the functions of the job and to learn who this woman was. As she learns things about the woman, it creates other difficulties for her. In addition, as Sunset is working at the new job, she must resolve issues with her precocious fourteen-year-old daughter and her relationship with her mother-in-law.

As I read the story, the depiction of events was told so vividly that I felt like I could see the action unfolding before me.

The story is very realistic and interesting. I felt drawn to the difficulties that people faced at that time and the courageousness of Sunset Jones.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on July 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I recently developed an interest in Joe Lansdale after hearing all the hype about "Bubba Ho-Tep," a film version of one of this author's short stories directed by Don Coscarelli of "Phantasm" fame and starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. I knew about Lansdale before the hoopla surrounding the film reached a fever pitch, of course, but he is one of those writers I unfortunately kept putting on the back burner in lieu of other "must read" stuff. On an excursion to the library recently I decided to finally check out something-anything, really-from this author. Since I couldn't find the short story collection containing "Bubba Ho-Tep," I settled on "Sunset and Sawdust" largely because it looked like it is his newest book and because it was the first one to catch my eye. I am happy to announce that I enjoyed this book despite a few minor reservations. I ended up enjoying "Sunset and Sawdust" so much that upon finishing it I immediately went back to the library to pick up another one of his books.
Set in the heat parched environs of Camp Rapture (known to the local employees as "Camp Rupture"), East Texas during the Great Depression, "Sunset and Sawdust" tells us everything we would want to know about a spirited firecracker named Sunset Jones. The adventure begins when Sunset (so named because of her mane of bright red hair) murders her abusive husband during a tornado strike. Regrettably for Sunset, her husband Pete was the town constable and the son of the primary owners of the local saw mill. It takes a lot of guts to stroll into the mill and tell Pete's parents what she did, but Sunset is the type of gal who always lives up to her responsibilities.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I first read a Joe R. Lansdale story in an anthology entitled NIGHT VISIONS. It was one of a series of volumes published by a wonderful and sadly defunct company named Dark Harvest. Dark Harvest, as might be gathered from its name, published horror literature, and was so reliable that one could pick up any title it issued and be happy.
I'd never heard of Lansdale before NIGHT VISIONS, and after reading his stories in that volume I never have never forgotten him. Lansdale's work effortlessly cuts across genres; while he tends to find himself classified in the western, horror, and suspense genres, his work and his talent are too big and too strong to be confined to any one area. He writes like an angel with the mindset of Hieronymus Bosch. If there were a soundtrack to his novels, it would be ZZ Top fronted by Trent Reznor, with The Sons of the Pioneers on vocals. While Lansdale's work is set in this world, he's definitely writing about the part of the town where the buses run few and far between, if at all.
SUNSET AND SAWDUST combines all of the finest elements of Lansdale's talents, making the Depression era East Texas towns of Camp Rapture and Holiday the setting for a dark morality tale with Biblical overtones. The story begins with Sunset Jones killing her husband Pete in self-defense in the midst of a devastating windstorm. The late departed Pete was the constable of Camp Rapture and the son of Marilyn Jones, three-quarter owner of the sawmill which is the lifeblood of the town.
No one is more surprised than Sunset when her mother-in-law proves to be unexpectedly understanding of Sunset's actions, and sees to it that Sunset succeeds Pete as town constable.
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