- Hardcover: 241 pages
- Publisher: PS Publishing; Limited signed edition edition (August 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781848634596
- ISBN-13: 978-1848634596
- ASIN: 1848634595
- Package Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 117 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,279,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Edge of Dark Water [signed slipcase] Hardcover – Special Edition, August 1, 2012
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What's the Edge of Dark Water about?
Joe Hill (author of Horns and The Heart-Shaped Box) called it a cross between The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Deliverance. He wasn't far wrong on that brief description.
When Mae Lyn, the prettiest girl in the county, is found dead in the Sabine River with a Singer sewing machine tied around her ankles, her three closest friends--maybe her only friends--decide to dig up her body, burn it, and take the ashes to Hollywood. This is where Mae Lyn always dreamed of going, hoping she would one day become famous. Her friends--Sue Ellen, Jinx and Terry--all have their different personalities. Sue Ellen, though pretty, is basically a tomboy. Jinx is black and isn't afraid to speak her mind, even if it gets her into trouble. Remember, this is taking place during the Great Depression. Terry is a handsome young fellow, but everybody considers him to be a sissy. In the South, during the Depression, being a sissy is considered worse than being black. Still, these kids love each other as close friends do, even if they sometimes get on each other's nerves.
Now, if each of these kids came from a great, loving home or had something to look forward to in their life, the idea of taking Mae Lyn's ashes to California wouldn't have grown wings and taken flight so quickly. All of them have little reason to stay and everything to gain by heading out west. To add to the situation, the three kids discover a cache of hidden money stolen from a bank by Mae Lyn's dead brother. It's only a thousand dollars, but a lot of people would kill you for a lot less during this era when even ten dollars was a lot of money.
Stealing a raft, the kids make their way down the river, but with folks after them for the bank's money. No one really cares about the children, but the money is something else entirely. The Shunk, a merciless killer and a legend, is hired to track the kids down and bring back the stolen loot. The thing is Shunk loves to kill in the most hideous ways. He always chops the hands off of his victims and keeps them as souvenirs tied around his neck. The kids don't believe in him at first, but they soon will.
While the kids make their way down the river to the nearest town, they encounter all sorts of strange and death-defying adventures. It doesn't hurt that they have an unexpected travelling companion with them. In fact, it eventually proves to be a blessing as time passes by.
There's also the matter of who murdered Mae Lyn.
That question isn't stared at or mulled over much on the river trip. But when the killer is finally revealed, I think you'll be just as surprised as I was. It's not easy to surprise me anymore, but Joe Lansdale still has that solid punch to the gut that can knock the wind out of you.
Edge of Dark Water covers many themes that deal with the plight of humanity: love, hate, racism, parenting, child abuse, murder, friendship, and evil of the worse kind. Mr. Lansdale doesn't beat you over the head with it, but demonstrates how fragile life and friendship can be. The author clearly portrays life as it was during the thirties. In some ways, much hasn't changed. People are still people with their good points and their bad ones. Seldom is anything black or white, but rather shades of grey because human beings are complex creatures. Mr. Lansdale understands this and is able to give the reader an underlying view of what makes people tick. This is hard job for any writer, but Mr. Lansdale manages to do it in spades.
This is also pure storytelling at its best. Not every writer can tell a good yarn. Joe Lansdale happens to be a master at storytelling after thirty years of learning his craft. He knows how to weave a good, heart-wrenching tale, creating fully developed characters in such a way that you either love them or hate them, or maybe both at the same time. Heck, you might not even know which emotion is kicking in or being tugged on. I guarantee, however, you'll get a good look at the dark side of humanity few other authors are able to tap into. This writer creates a picture of evil as if he's gone up against it during his lifetime and barely survived.
Last, allow me to add that Joe Lansdale is an author who knows how to deliver on his promise. What do I mean? Whenever you buy a novel, the author is promising you'll get your money's worth from it. Not every author is able to keep this promise, but Joe always does. This is why I always look forward to a new book by him. It doesn't get any better than this.
Go out and get yourself a copy of Edge of Dark Water. After you finish reading it, you'll want to put it on the bookshelf beside Joe R. Lansdale's other great novels, The Bottoms, A Fine Dark Line, Sunset and Sawdust, and the Hap/Leonard series. This is one of the top writers in the world today and if you haven't read his fiction, then shame on you. Highly recommended!
I think there must be close to 1000 reviews and blurbs already for this book, which just published on Feb. 12. Many of them are from writers and reviewers far more articulate than myself. Every blurb and comment I've read is positive, and I have to second that. Joe R. Lansdale is a Master, by any criteria. I've never forgotten his set "The Drive-In" and "The Drive-In II" and I never will. Now I will never forget "Edge of Dark Water" (and his debut novel, "The Bottoms," which I plan to read very soon). Mr. Lansdale has so recreated the structure and milieu of East Texas during the Great Depression of the 1930's, a typically Southern region, and made it so real even to those of us who didn't actually live this era, that it becomes an ongoing, perpetual, mindset.
Youngsters (actually adolescents now) May Lynn, Sue Ellen, Jinx, and Terry live a very hardscrabble, rock-bottom life. The only one of the four who has a decent parental set is Jinx, and because she is resident in the extended South, and African-American, she has her share of troubles not akin to the other three. But May Lynn, Sue Ellen, and Terry all have domestic difficulties; it is fortunate that the four do share this close and abiding friendship, and the taut nature of this bond becomes intensely apparent when Sue Ellen and Terry discover May Lynn's drowned body in the Sabine River--the river that becomes a character in and of itself, the river that will change all their lives in immense and unending ways.
"Edge of Dark Water" is an incredibly heartrending novel, but it is one I cannot imagine not reading.
No one writes small town America west of the Mississippi River better than Joe Lansdale. He creates small towns everyone has lived in or scene in one fashion or another, and he fills them with people that are at once recognizable. And he gives his readers, for the most part, young people who are growing up in the world and trying to understand their roles and how that world truly works. Along the way, these characters - their innocence already tattered by life in general - are subjected to rough handling that further abrades that purity.
In most of these novels - The Bottoms, A Fine Dark Line, and Lansdale's first YA novel, All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky - feature compelling young characters. In Edge of Dark Water, sixteen year old Sue Ellen is the narrator. Like Huck Finn, she's pretty much alone in the world and on her own, striving to keep her life intact, and one of the predators she has to fight against is her own father.
The books deliberately shadows Huck Finn's own story in many ways. Lansdale has been very forthcoming about this, but he provides his own riff on the tale. There is a river trip by raft, and there are vicious scoundrels chasing after Sue Ellen for a treasure.
Lansdale's mysteries always offer a lot of twists and turns that are redemptive and illustrative, bringing home new truths to the characters that the readers can tune in to as well. I liked the character of Sue Ellen a lot. She was hard-nosed and vulnerable, knew herself and yet was confused by what she was doing and why sometimes. And she wasn't at all sure how she felt about her drunken mother during most of the novel.
Like Sue Ellen's raft and her motley group of friends, I was swept along in this adventure/mystery, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys (one of whom is almost supernatural) and figure out who killed May Linn Baxter, the prettiest girl in town. I loved the way the swamplands and nature came to life all around the protagonists. I've traveled the bottoms in Oklahoma and know they're a lot the same, spooky as all get-out at night, and beautiful as you'd wish during the daylight.
Edge of Dark Water is a read that will take you away to another place, another time, thrill you and chill you, and throw you a handful of curveballs for good measure before the voyage is done.