The Thicket

Overview

ALA Reading List Award for History, Short List

Love and vengeance at the dark dawn of the East Texas oil boom from Joe Lansdale, "a true American original" (Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box).

Jack Parker thought he'd already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to ...

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The Thicket

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Overview

ALA Reading List Award for History, Short List

Love and vengeance at the dark dawn of the East Texas oil boom from Joe Lansdale, "a true American original" (Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box).

Jack Parker thought he'd already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas—orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula.

Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle's farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack's grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who's come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack's extended family to boot).

In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place. Oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. But as Jack's about to find out, blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Gritand Stand by Me—the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called "as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm—or Mark Twain" (New York Times Book Review).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in early 20th-century East Texas, this satisfying novel from Edgar-winner Lansdale (Edge of Dark Water) takes 16-year-old Jack Parker to darker places than he ever imagined. After Jack’s parents die of smallpox, his preacher grandfather determines to deliver Jack and his 14-year-old sister, Lula, to an aunt who lives across the Sabine River. While waiting for a ferry, they’re attacked by a band of men, who kill the grandfather, nearly kill Jack, and kidnap Lula. Having lost most of his family, Jack doesn’t intend to lose her and sets out after them. Soon he encounters an undersized bounty hunter, Shorty, and Eustace Cox, the grave-digging son of an ex-slave, who agree to help him rescue his sister for a price. As the body count rises, the narrative grows steadily more grim (if, at times, hilarious). Lansdale’s humor and skill at characterization come across well, though at moments the reader wishes for just a little more background detail. Agent: Danny Baror, Baror International. (Sept.)
Ron Rash
"THE THICKET is a novel that earns a place on the same bookshelf as Charles Portis' TRUE GRIT and Cormac McCarthy's ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. Joe Lansdale is a supremely gifted writer, and his novel is one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in years."
Ron Carlson
"It has been a while since I have read a book which is such fun, not fun but the thing next to fun where there's a big rolling story — dark and light — told in a voice so alluring and deadpan that it makes you smile and then look around to see who saw you smile. Lansdale takes us on a wicked, charming journey."
Michael Koryta
"The Thicket presents Joe Lansdale at his finest-which is to say, at the high-water mark of all storytelling."
Jim Donovan
"THE THICKET starts off with a bang and ends in a shootout as thrilling as anything since Shane. It's set in a time and place in Texas-the Big Thicket, at the turn of the 20th century-where anything can happen and usually does. This is classic American storytelling: Mark Twain leavened with dashes of William Faulkner, Charles Portis, and Cormac McCarthy. The result is all Lansdale, and he mixes good and evil, along with generous portions of laughter and even love, like nobody's business. God, can he tell a story."
James Sallis
"Too often overlooked in American literature is that lineage descending from our early humorists such as Bierce, and from Twain: regional, darkly comic, bizarre. That's where Joe Lansdale lives. He's very Texan, very American, very funny -and a stone brilliant writer."
Booklist (starred)
"The Bard of East Texas is back. . . . He has been writing brilliantly about East Texas for three decades, but never has the region appeared stranger or more violent than it does here. . . . Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place, and an impressive body count make The Thicket another Lansdale treasure."
Houston Chronicle
"This latest work reads like a dark version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and feels like a Coen brothers movie. It's the perfect mix of light and dark, with plenty of humor mixed in."
Dean Koontz
"Reading Joe Lansdale is like listening to a favorite uncle who just happens to be a fabulous storyteller. This book deals with dark and strange material, but it is hugely appealing as narrated in the first person by young Sue Ellen, who shines."
From the Publisher
" Hellish and hilarious . . . It's classic Lansdale, his own self peppered throughout by much piney backwoods philosophizing on everything from religion to whoring, [with] the author's long-ago trademarked heaping helping of wry, often delightfully vulgar humanism. The Thicket is a keeper and then some." —Austin Chronicle

"This latest work reads like a dark version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and feels like a Coen brothers movie. It's the perfect mix of light and dark, with plenty of humor mixed in." —Houston Chronicle

"Lansdale excels at giving his fans what they want...Many die, but what's really dying here, Lansdale says, is a romanticized way of life." —Dallas Morning News

"About a perfect a Western as you'll find . . . Let's say you planned to write a story set in 1916 in Texas. Borrow a little from The Wizard of Oz, a little Mark Twain, and make a nod toward classic western literature. Add humor, some savagery and remove just about everything "PC"-and you might come close to the perfection that is The Thicket. . . . If you're in the mood for something down-and-dirty but oh-so-enjoyable, here's your book." —The Sun News

"The Bard of East Texas is back. . . . He has been writing brilliantly about East Texas for three decades, but never has the region appeared stranger or more violent than it does here. . . . Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place, and an impressive body count make The Thicket another Lansdale treasure." —Booklist (starred)

New York Times
"An ambitious, quietly grieving portrait of racism in Texas in the 1930s."
New York Journal of Books
"A coming of age story peopled with original and fascinating blood-and-bones characters. A chillingly atmospheric tale of good and evil and adolescent angst. EDGE OF DARK WATER has all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come."
The Dallas Morning News
"Entertaining, eerie and soaked with the East Texas period atmosphere Lansdale owns like no other writer....Along the river chase, readers will pick up on nods to homer, Dickey, Twain and others, but the brooding East Texas atmosphere is all Lansdale....Joe R. Lansdale could fall into the Sabine River at its filthiest point and still come up dripping nothing but storytelling mojo."
Boston Globe
PRAISE FOR EDGE OF DARK WATER:

"A cast of unforgettable characters....a terrific read. From its pages waft memories of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and even As I Lay Dying with its journey to lay a soul to rest. When I reached the final page, something happened that I can't remember ever happening with a book I've read for a review. I wanted to read it again."

New York Times Book Review
"As funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm-or Mark Twain."
Austin Chronicle
"A doozy of a read, the kind of book we call an 'all nighter'...It's that kind of great, and it's pure-blood Lansdale, crammed to bursting with plot twists that recall the snaky bends of the Sabine River...This sucker moves...It's our favorite book of the year so far, and one of Lansdale's best, ever."
Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
The Parkers are a moderately successful family of East Texas dirt farmers in the early 1900s, until the parents are struck down by smallpox and the children, Jack and Lula, start on a cross-country trek to Kansas with their grandpa. At the Sabine River ferry, a second tragedy strikes when a band of outlaws kill Grandpa and kidnap 14-year-old Lula. Jack follows their trail, determined to rescue his sister. As he makes his way deeper into outlaw territory, Jack puts together as unlikely a band of anti-outlaw ruffians as ever graced the pages of a novel. A midget sharpshooter, a half-breed tracker and his pet hog, an escapee from a house of prostitution, a renegade sheriff and part-time bounty hunter—each joins the quest, puts his/her life on the line, and shares a personal story in the bargain. VERDICT Lansdale (Edge of Deep Water) offers up a coming-of-age Western adventure as captivating as the best of Larry McMurtry and written in a style reminiscent of Mark Twain. With intriguing, sometimes bumbling characters and storytelling laced with bravado, good humor, action, and heart, all set in the wilds of Texas during the early days of the oil boom, this title cannot help but captivate readers.—Thomas Kilpatrick, Martin, TN
Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
If the Coen brothers' film version of True Grit gave readers an appetite for more underage period Western bounty hunting, Lansdale (Edge of Dark Water, 2012, etc.) is eager to oblige. "[O]ne thing for sure, this ain't your day," the retiring deputy of Sylvester, Texas, tells Jack Parker. He doesn't know the half of it. After Jack's parents are carried off by smallpox, his grandfather packs Jack, 16, and his sister, Lula, 14, onto a wagon and heads for their Aunt Tessle's in Kansas. The wagon makes it only halfway across the Sabine River on a suspiciously expensive new ferry when three men spoiling for a fight shoot Caleb Parker and the ferryman, leave Jack in the river and ride off with Lula. Jack's obligation to rescue his sister is clear, but the means aren't, until he runs into tracker Eustace Cox--part black, part Comanche, and maybe a hint of Parker mixed up in him--and his buddy Reginald Jones, a philosophical dwarf everyone calls Shorty. Offering to swap the deeds for his family's land for some timely assistance in dealing with "Cut Throat Bill," "Nigger Pete" and "Fatty Worth," Jack interests the unlikely pair in his quest. Soon enough, they're joined by Jimmie Sue, a whore with a heart of flesh; Winton, ex-rancher, ex–bounty hunter and ex-sheriff; Spot, his assistant back in the Sylvester jail; and Hog, Eustace's hog. The many shaggy conversations, anecdotes and back stories that emerge among the group gradually reveal to Jack what he's going to have to do to rescue Lula, what sort of allies he's enlisted for the job and what sort of person he is himself. Alternately violent and tender, with a gently legendary quality that makes this tall tale just about perfect.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316188449
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Pages: 368

Meet the Author

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than a dozen novels, including Edge of Dark Water, the Edgar Award-winning The Bottoms, Sunset and Sawdust, and Leather Maiden. He has received nine Bram Stoker Awards, the American Mystery Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature. He lives with his family in Nacogdoches, Texas.

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