Saturday, January 26, 2013

Read: "Sunset and Sawdust" by Joe R. Lansdale

Read: Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale, 2004, 9780375414534.

Lansdale is a Facebook posting fanatic.  I tend to skip over half his posts but he posted a link to this one not too long ago.  I placed a reserve, took it home, and read it.  I liked it.  Spoilers.

Sunset Jones is concerned about her husband, Pete.  Sunset's main concern for Pete is his vioelnt behavior.  Especially since Pete is raping Sunset as the novel opens.  Since Pete is also a local Constable in Depression-era East TX he ditched his gunbelt when unbuckling his pants.  Sunset reaches over, pulls Pete's revolver, sticks the gun to his head, and sprays her herself and her kitchen with Pete's blood and gore.

The blood and gore would make a mess to clean up.  Good thing a tornado was tearing by and took the house along with it.  Too bad the tornado didn't clean off Sunset, too.  Sunset stumbles her way over to her in-law's house where Sunset and Pete's daughter is.  Sunset has no where else to go.  Her in-laws are not pleased to learn about Pete.  I don't recall if the in-laws were concerned about the house.  Sunset never lets go of the revolver.

Turns out Pete's father was just as violently abusive as Pete.  Sunset's mother-in-law Marilyn first slaps Sunset, then hugs her and supports her.  Marilyn sews her own husband into his bed sheets, beats him with a rake, then kicks him out for good.  Many more things happen.

Sunset is appointed Constable through the influence of Marilyn who owns a majority of the local sawmill that employs most everyone in town.  Sunset hires a musician drifter named Hillbilly and a local sawmill worker, Clyde, as her deputies.  A woman police officer is not liked in those times.  A woman with any power is disliked.  Could be worse though.  She could be a black man and be considered even lower.

Things happen: Sunset helps in local big town when black guy kills a couple people at a movie theater.  Sunset finds out about a dead baby and woman buried in a black farmer's farmland.  Sunset finds out about scheme to steal land for oil rights.  Hillbilly is a narcissistic and sociopathic piece of garbage.  (Hillbilly murders five fellow hobos, knocks up Sunset's daughter, screws Sunset, skips out to hang with a local whore,takes up with Bad Guy.)  Sunset always keeps that revolver on her or next to her.

Sunset's long lost father returns.  Bad Guy and Bad Guy's Brother are from Chicago and there for the oil scheme.  People are murdered by Bad Guy's Brother.  People are avenged with shotguns.  Sunset figures out the dead baby and woman.  Sunset drives off into the sunset.

1.  It's all a way for Lansdale to tell a tale about life in small town East Texas during the Depression.  Black men are always at risk of lynching for little or no reason (and one occurs).  Women are not respected.  Men with power get away with a lot.  Poor people struggle.  Marriages are complex and people are tied together by circumstance, even when one partner should leave.
2.  These are some common Lansdale themes and he does his usual good job with them.  What's that one character say in a Crider book?  Something like, "When you look past all the foul language he [Lansdale] talks about some very important things."
3.  I'm thinking of collecting a bunch of Lansdale similes for a work video.
4.  There are at least two covers for these novel.  One of the covers is lousy.  I like the second version that is on my copy.

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