Even though he’s been active for most of the time I’ve been alive and has countless books out, I’ve only just recently gotten into Joe R. Lansdale. But the story of how I originally got into him is interesting enough that it’s worth a story.
I’ve been a Bruce Campbell fan for about as long as I can remember from way back when my dad exposed me to Evil Dead, possibly at much too early of an age. But regardless, I’ve been a fan of his since I could walk. Also because of my dad, I’ve also always been a Don Coscarelli fan ever since I saw Phantasm.
So fast-forward to my college days. I had heard there was an upcoming Don C film starring Bruce Campbell playing Elvis and I knew I absolutely had to see it. Unfortunately, it had a very limited release and this was back in 2002 so internet releases and VOD and all of that weren’t options and the closest theatre that was screening it was in Indianapolis. So I ended up getting some people together and we did the drive from Purdue down to Indianapolis. I unfortunately don’t recall the name of the theater or what part of town it was on, but this was an old, old place. I remember the projector was sitting in the middle of the room, elevated by a stack of cinder blocks and I could actually hear the spinning of the reels while the film was projecting.
Regardless, it was an absolutely amazing film. It was humorous, it was emotional, it was witty, and Brucey absolutely nailed playing The King. On a side note, when it eventually got released on DVD, Bruce did two commentary tracks – one has himself and one in character as Elvis which you absolutely must listen to. I laughed myself out of my chair the first time I listened to it. Pure comedy gold.
So anyhow, 2002 was still during my reading furlough and although I was aware that it was based off a short story (or, more precisely, a novella) written by Lansdale, I didn’t have too much interest in tracking it down and reading it. Fast forward a decade and a half and I tracked down a small press reprint of the book including commentary by Lansdale and it was signed by him and everything. When I first read the book, I was blown away by how well Lansdale is able to capture comedy and witty dialogue. But, unfortunately, I didn’t get into anything else of his at that time.
So fast forward a little more and I became aware that there was a show based on his Hap & Leonard characters that went on for a total of three seasons. I asked pretty much everybody I knew and no one even knew the show existed. Well, I’m the kind of person that wants to read the book before I watch the show/movie and so I started off with The Big Book of Hap and Leonard which is essentially a collection of the shorter stories of these two guys and again was blown away by how vibrant and amusing the characters are.
So now I’m on a quest to track down about thirty years’ worth of books by someone that is truly a master storyteller. All because I went on a mini-pilgrimage to see a film starring one of my favorite actors directed by one of my favorite directors. It’s so interesting how life works sometimes. But I am truly grateful I stumbled across him and have thus enriched my home library.