A Fine Dark Line Paperback – Oct 1 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
The atmosphere is as thick as an East Texas summer day in Edgar-winner Lansdale's (The Bottoms) engaging, multilayered regional mystery, which harks back to 1958. Thirteen-year-old Stanley Mitchel, Jr., has enough on his hands just growing up in Dewmont, Tex., when he literally stumbles on a buried cache of love letters. Stanley pursues the identity of the two lovers with help from the projectionist at his family's drive-in, an aged black man who quotes Sherlock Holmes and doesn't mince words about the world's injustices. As the truth of a gruesome 20-year-old double murder comes to light in the sleepy town, so do the facts of life, death, men, women and race for young Stanley. Unfortunately, this wealth of experience sometimes strains credulity. For instance, Stanley, his sister, Callie, and friend Richard witness a secret burial, see a local phantom, are chased by a murderer and barely miss being hit by a train-all in one night. As the older and wiser Stanley says of the past, "More had happened to my family in one summer than had happened in my entire life." The "down-home" dialect is occasionally overdone, too, with more ripe sayings than Ross Perot on caffeine. But Lansdale clearly knows and loves his subject and enlivens his haunting coming-of-age tale with touches of folklore and humor.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Lansdale makes a rich stew of memory and mystery in the voice of Stanley Mitchel Jr., who is 13 in 1958 and is writing down, in midlife, what he recalls. His parents own the drive-in in Dewmont, Texas; his dad calls his mom "Gal"; his sister, Callie, is turn-your-head pretty and feisty besides. Stanley finds in the burnt ruins behind the drive-in a cache of love letters. Stanley--innocent enough at the beginning of the story to still believe in Santa Claus--is fascinated by the letters and soon learns that the fire marked the deaths of two young women, long ago. Those deaths ripple through the pages, as Stanley struggles with knowledge of good and evil: his friend Richard's abusive dad; the black cook's stalker boyfriend; the drive-in projectionist who faces twin demons of age and alcohol. Stanley's mother, father, and sister are vivid, glowing personages. Stanley doesn't unravel everything, but race and power, and what people do to each other in the name of desire and religion, coalesce to a mighty climax. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
"A Fine Dark Line" stars Stanley Mitchel, Jr., a man in his late fifties recalling a series of startling events that occurred in the Summer of 1958 when he was thirteen years old and living in Dewmont, Texas. The Mitchel family was well off in Dewmont since they owned the local drive-in theater. Stanley Mitchel, Sr., the patriarch of the clan, is a no nonsense type of guy who doesn't hesitate to hand out a few slaps to keep peace in the family.Read more ›
Stanley is a thirteen year old boy who, during the summer of 1958, moves with his family to a new town. His father has bought the town's drive-in as a family business and that's where Stan will see himself live with his parents and sister. Soon enough, he uncovers a box full of old letters, which will lead him to discover a mystery that has just been waiting to be unearthed.
The mystery deals with a couple of young girls who were killed nearly thirty years ago. Their deaths are still unresolved and Stanley, with the help of his sister and the old projectionist, decides to figure things out by himself.
Since the book is set in the 50s it will, of course, deal with sexuality, with the black revolution and with movies of the era. Lansdale tries to deal with too much in too little time. There are great echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird in this one (even a Boo Radley-like character appears in A Fine Dark Line), which just shows the kind of thing Lansdale was striving to achieve. The book is barely 300 pages long and yet, it has more to deal with than most books twice its size. It really saddens me to say that this one feels more like an outline Lansdale didn't feel he had to courage to see through.
I still enjoyed reading A Fine Dark Line.Read more ›
Lansdale was an impressively talented writer fifteen years ago when he wrote THE DRIVE-IN, a bizarre and wildly fun novel about teenagers trapped by aliens in an all-night triple-feature, and he's only gotten better over the years. Fans of Lansdale's earlier work will recognize some perineal elements and themes in A FINE DARK LINE.
As the title suggests, racial concerns feature prominently in A FINE DARK LINE. Lansdale is also concerned here with the choices we're forced to make as humans. Friendship and love-both spoken and unspoken-are also major elements in this highly entertaining and affecting novel.
If you've read Lansdale before, you know what a talented storyteller the man is, and have shouldn't hesitate picking up this novel. It's one of his best yet.
If you haven't read him, but are on the lookout for an author who knows how to mix laugh-out-loud humor with just the right amount of nostalgia, poetic observationl skills, and honest, sometimes soft, sometimes steely emotion, then Lansdale's your man and A FINE DARK LINE's your poison. Drink deep, and enjoy.
Most recent customer reviews
I liked very much the book. I've just finished American Pastoral and I was looking for something different. It was my first time with Joe R. Lansdale. Read morePublished on June 29 2004 by V. Paola V. Laur
Although Lansdale's Stanley is few years older than I am, I can say that not much changed in East Texas from 1958 to the 1960's when I grew up. Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2003
This is basically The Bottoms revisited. The story is changed a little bit, but the premise is the same, a coming of age story involving a murder mystery in the gone-by south... Read morePublished on Oct. 29 2003 by Ryan Thomas
Lansdale is a great writer. He's so good that he can write in his sleep -- which may be the problem with A Fine Dark Line. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2003 by S. Harris
Joe Lansdale has written a coming-of-age story of 13y.o. Stanley Mitchell growing up in East Texas, 1958. Read morePublished on June 1 2003 by Tim Smith
A great coming of age novel written by a true pro.
I rank this one with the other great coming of age novels
such as: Boy's Life, Something Wicked This Way Comes,... Read more
Having read and enjoyed most of Joe R. Lansdale's earlier mysteries, I approached A Fine Dark Line with pleasant anticipation. Read morePublished on April 15 2003
Lansdale describes a summer in 1958 when 13 year-old Stanley Michel Jr and his family moved to a house that formed the screen of the drive-in theater in Dewmont Texas. Read morePublished on April 9 2003 by Silver Springer