The Bottoms BOOK review [Joe R. Lansdale]

Book Reviews
The Bottoms BOOK review [Joe R. Lansdale]
Sep 1, 2000, 20:22

THE BOTTOMS by Joe R. Lansdale; Mysterious/Warner Books, 2000

This is easily Lansdale's best stab at constructing a true literary work. Although he has many fans, for many years now JRL has cemented his reputation as a cult fixture on the fiction scene. Shifting gears from genre to genre (mystery, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, Westerns, comic books, short stories…) and often morphing between styles to relatively pleasing, down right entertaining effect, this is the first time he's really harnessed his skills into a tightly honed work that moves beyond typified genre trappings. No small feat for a man working from such an enormous palette. Lansdale is forging new ground that will hopefully lead to a wider audience.

Written in the first-person narrative, young Harry Crane discovers a black woman's mutilated body while wandering the nearby river bottoms hunting for possum with his younger sister and his dog. As legend has it, these bottoms are stalked by the “goat man,” a mythic monster who preys on children for food—a myth created largely by concerned parents who want their kids in by dark. As other bodies are soon discovered, the local community gets caught up in racist fervor, fearing soon a “white woman's” body will be discovered.

Harry's father is the local constable. He is a man of prudence and common sense, but is ill equipped to deal with the methodology necessary to unravel the intricacies of tracking down this killer and dealing with racial tensions that surface and begin to boil over as a result of communal fears. To give away anything more would just be a plot spoiler.

The Bottoms operates on several levels: at its core it's a coming of age story about the loss of innocence; an exegesis on the Depression-era South; a refutation of Southern bigotry; a horror-suspense-thriller with large degrees of mystery thrown in.With The Bottoms Lansdale achieves consummate storyteller status. He's the guy you want orating at the campfire… just don't plan on getting any sleep.

-Peter Davis

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