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A Fine Dark Line Paperback – Oct 1 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press; Reprint edition (Oct. 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446691674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446691673
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,177,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is unusual for a writer to successfully cross the boundaries between literary genres, but Joe R. Lansdale does so with ease. He's written horror stories and novels, science fiction, and mysteries. What's more, the author has won awards in different genres, from six Bram Stoker Awards for horror to the Edgar Award and the American Mystery Award. Up until a month ago, I never read a Joe Lansdale book. I heard of him over the years, always meant to pick up one of his books, but just never got around to it. The recent release and the subsequent clamor of praise for "Bubba Ho-Tep," a Lansdale short story adapted for the big screen by "Phantasm" creator Don Coscarelli, finally inspired me to sit down with a Lansdale tome or two. Surprisingly, I picked two of his mystery stories, the recent "Sunset and Sawdust" and "A Fine Dark Line." I liked the former, a whodunit set in the steamy environs of East Texas during the Depression. I also, it turns out, enjoyed the former, a whodunit set in East Texas during the late 1950s. Lansdale writes about East Texas because he knows the region like the back of his hand. It's possible the writer may well do for the Lone Star state what Stephen King did for Maine and what Bentley Little is trying to do for Arizona.
"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.
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Format: Hardcover
It's rare that you find yourself really sad when a book ends. This was the case for me in Lansdale's wonderful A FINE DARK LINE. Although it is a mystery, it is also a marvelous look at growing up in what seemed to be more "innocent" times, when the local drive in was the hottest place in town on Friday and Saturday nights. The Mitchell family, including the story's narrative voice, Stanley, is a warm and comfortably stoic group, highly developed morals, a sense of family love, and a warm heart for even those outside of the family (most noticeably in their "adoption" of the Negress Rosy). Buster Lighthorse Smith, who works as the projectionist at the Mitchell's drive-in, is a moody, often caustic alcoholic, who becomes a friend to young Stanley and helps him in his investigation of two murders committed twenty years before. Although this mystery is what drives the storyline of A FINE DARK LINE, it is the development of the characters, including Stanley's friend, Richard, and many other supporting characters, that elevates this book to its level of excellence. One of the murders is solved; the other,well, that's for you to decide. But nonetheless, I wanted to spend more time with Stanley and his family and friends; the wrap up at the end adds to the nostalgic feel of learning about people you knew. A great book!
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Format: Paperback
Joe Lansdale, who started his career as a horror writer, is now best known for his hard-biting, hard-edged and very dark mystery and thrillers. The last few years has a offered a softer version of Lansdale who, although still writing mysteries, has decided to deal more with the pains and fears of growing up. A Fine Dark Line is another addition to this lot and, although it is genuine Lansdale, the whole still left me a bit disappointed. This one felt more like the outline for a greater novel than anything else.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
A FINE DARK LINE represents Joe Landsale at the top of his game. In this bittersweet coming of age novel set in rural 1950's Texas, Lansdale manages to do just about everything right. All of the notes he hits novel are clear and in tune and a few manage to reach deep enough to stir up some seriously deep, dark and muddy emotions.
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.
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