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The Bottoms [Paperback]

Joe R. Lansdale
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2001
When young Harry Collins finds the mutilated body of a black woman bound to a tree with barbed wire, he and his younger sister suspect the legendary Goat Man, who is said to lurk under the swinging bridge crossing Texas's Sabine River. The creature holds the key to a string of brutal murders--and a chilling truth. A "New York Times" Notable Book of the Year".

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Joe Lansdale, author of several horror novels, Westerns, and some outrageous thrillers, is something of a cult writer. The Bottoms, which may be the breakout book that moves Lansdale beyond the genre category, is a resonant and moving novel. Though there is a mystery at its core, it is at heart a coming-of-age story, with a more literary bent than Lansdale usually demonstrates.

Harry, an elderly man, tells the story of a series of events that occurred in his 11th year, when the mutilated, murdered bodies of Negro prostitutes began turning up in the county where his father was the local constable. Harry and Tom, his younger sister, find the first one. Only their father, Jacob Crane, seems to care about finding justice for the victims, who are dismissed out of hand as unimportant by the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan, which warns Jacob off any further investigations. Harry and Tom think they know who's responsible: the Goat Man, a creature who's said to lurk beneath the swinging bridge that crosses the Sabine River, where the first body was found. In fact, the Goat Man has something to do with the murders, and the secret of who he is and what he really did is the key to the unsolved slayings. But that takes second place to the artfully explicated character of Jacob and Harry's changing relationship with him in the course of the loss of his boyish innocence. This is a masterfully told story and a very good read. --Jane Adams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest suspense thriller, prolific yarn-spinner Lansdale, best known for his offbeat series featuring the mismatched East Texas Sherlocks Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (Bad Chili), presents a different voice in a coming-of-age story set in the early years of the Great Depression. Lansdale's 80-something protagonist, Harry Crane, looks back to the day in 1933 when he was 13 and, with his nine-year-old sister, Tom (Thomasina), he found the mutilated corpse of a black prostitute bound to a tree with barbed wire near their home along the hardscrabble bottomlands of the Sabine River. The discovery presents their father, Jacob CraneAa farmer and barber eking out a living as the town constableAwith a nightmarish investigation. News travels slowly in the days before television, but Jacob learns from the black doctor who performs the makeshift autopsy that two other mutilated bodies have been found over the last 18 months. Because the victims are black and "harlots," no one in the county much cares. But when the body of a white prostitute is discovered, a rabid mob lynches MosesAa black man who has been something of a surrogate father to JacobAdespite Jacob and Harry's heroic efforts to save him. Predictably, another body is soon discovered. Lansdale is best when recreating the East Texas dialogue and setting. Readers will not have to work hard to unearth comparisons to characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, but gruesome details of the murders keep the novel from being labeled a period piece. Folksy and bittersweet, though rather rough-hewn and uneven, Lansdale's novel treats themes still sadly pertinent today. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars everything you could want and more July 16 2004
Set in depression-era southeast Texas*, this sort-of-mystery, sort-of-maybe-supernatural story reads like a near-gothic frappe of Harper Lee and early M. Night Shyamalan ... with a Texan accent. It's a richly-drawn, finely-told murder mystery related from the primary POV of 2 kids whose father is struggling with the investigation.
Technically, I guess, the tale is told by the older sibling, who is now elderly (in a nursing home?); and to tell the truth, I wish Lansdale had left the frame story out of it. There's only so much denoument a novel needs, and I got more wind-down than I really wanted. But even so, it's a damn fine story and Lansdale's writing style is enough to keep you flying from paragraph to paragraph, even during those brief periods when you're less than thrilled with the content.
[side note: For those of you who may not be aware, Joe Lansdale is the spectacular fellow who wrote the short story upon which the movie <i>Bubba Ho-Tep</i> was based. If you are blessed enough to own (or rent) a copy of the DVD, be sure to check some of the extras for an interview or two with Lansdale. He seems like quite a character, all lower-bodily fixations aside.]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lansdale goes mainstream...sort of. July 9 2004
Author Joe R. Lansdale is a cult figure due to his extreme way of looking at the world around him, specifically that corner known as East Texas. Not everyone can tolerate his depiction of the often unnecessarily violent behaviors of normal people (and not everyone gets to, as most of his output is released with small specialty presses). His ability to jump from one genre to another with apparent ease (he has written horror, mystery, suspense, and westerns, just to skim the surface) makes instant fans of his readers, who know that they will never get bored because he "always writes the same thing" like many authors. Novels like The Drive-In, along with his series starring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, and his short story collections High Cotton and Bumper Crop show his vast range of expertise, and his six Bram Stoker awards (given by the Horror Writers of America) are a testament to the appreciation of genre fans.
A lot of Lansdale's work has a streak of dark humor running through it; you know when you read it you'll have a good time. The Bottoms has a lot of the same qualities of his other work, but is a more serious telling. Released by Mysterious Press, this is more of what people usually expect when they pick up a mystery novel, but still with the signature Lansdale stamp. Racism is a subject that never seems to get old, and it hangs heavily over the proceedings.
From his room in a rest home, old Harry Collins tells the story of a period of his childhood in the 1930s. While he and his sister Tom (short for Thomasina and tomboy) are out on an unpleasant task -- that of putting down their sick dog, Toby -- they come across a dead black woman, naked and tied to a tree with barbed wire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ENGAGING TALE OF GROWING UP Jan. 15 2004
Mr. Lansdale proves what a versatile writer he in in "The Borders," the book for which he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Although the book has the elements of a mystery. Lansdale takes his reader more into the territory of "A Boys Life," "Stand by Me" and even "To Kill a Mockingbird." Without rehashing the plot again, Lansadle gives us a wonderfully written narrator's voice (the 80 and 11 year old Harry Collins) who tells his tale with both sadness and whimsical fondness. The relationships with his father, Jacob; his mother May; his sister Tom; his grandmother; the elderly Miss Maggie, and all interweave into a complex plot. There is a point in the novel where the identity of the murderer becomes obvious, but it's so deftly interwoven, you forget until it is identified. The book shows the sad side of segregation in the thirties where being "colored" was being "nothing." Lansdale gives a very good inclination of that life, and includes some remarkably likeable "coloreds."
A very well written book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasing mixture of several genres Dec 1 2003
In The Bottoms, author Joe Lansdale has superimposed a murder mystery over a coming of age story. To this he adds the setting of the rural south during the Great Depression which he couples with the racial tensions of that place and time. The result of this eccletic mixture is an engaging page-turner with wide appeal. Landsdale tells his story from the perspective of 11-year Harry, although it is an elderly Harry looking back on his childhood who narrates the tale. A chance discovery of Harry and his younger sister, Tom, launches a search for a serial killer by their father, Jacob, the town's constable. Memorable characters along the way include Harry's eccentric grandmother, a black doctor ahead of his time, a bigoted old man and his hateful sons, a neighboring constable with connections to both of Harry's parents, a reclusive elderly black man, and finally, a mysterious figure known only as the "Goat Man." Although the plot does have parallels to To Kill a Mockingbird, its blend of elements makes it uniquely worthwhile. And even if you solve the mystery ahead of time like I did, this book is sure to captivate you to the very last page.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeper, darker Lansdale.
Last year a friend of mine told me about Joe R. Lansdale and the Hap Collins-Leonard Pine mysteries. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2003 by James Beasley
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Like "To Kill a Mockingbird"
This is a well written, coming of age, murder mystery. No doubts about that. But it seems as if Mr. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by "volvette"
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Coming-Of-Age Story And A Chilling Murder Mystery!
Set in East Texas during the Great Depression, Joe Lansdale's "The Bottoms" is a wonderful coming-of-age tale about life in a simpler time. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2003 by Jana L. Perskie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book! But thank Harper Lee too...
This was the first I have read of Joe Lansdale's books and I'd now like to read others. The plot moves very quickly (I read it in 2 nights), the characters are believable, the... Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe Lansdale's Best
The Bottoms is simply one of the best books I have ever read. Granted, Lansdale's other novles about monsters and boogie men are fantastically entertaining, but The Bottoms puts... Read more
Published on June 12 2003 by Ryan Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars the bottoms
Not flawless, but the best read I've found in a couple of years!
Published on April 15 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I am a huge fan of his work and would recommend most of his stuff!
Published on March 31 2003 by Catherine Singletary
4.0 out of 5 stars This Century's To Kill A Mockingbird....
...I will give my thoughts on the novel. I think this story might be one of the best written stories I have ever read. Read more
Published on March 22 2003 by Reviewer X
4.0 out of 5 stars Moody southern yarn
Damn good moody, dark southern yarn. The atmosphere and storytellign ability of Joe is great. The killer in the end had me whistling mayberry theme,,,,but it was cool.
Published on March 21 2003 by S. L. Shrewsbury
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