Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lansdale: "Fender Lizards" Joe R Lansdale

Lansdale: Fender Lizards, 2015, 9781596067172.

This is really a Young Adult novel. But, it is a Lansdale novel so that doesn't matter because the book is very good no matter the intended audience.

17-year-old Dot is a roller skating waitress at the Dairy Bob drive-in restaurant in a small East Texas town. Bob, owner of Dairy Bob's, calls the skating waitresses Fender Lizards. Or, maybe that was Dot and her co-workers - the name doesn't really matter.

Dot has left high school and lives in a trailer with her mother and grandmother. Dot works the max 6 hours a day the law allows a minor to work and then she works a few more hours under the table. Dot's sister, Raylynn, has two children, one ex-boyfriend who ran off, and a current boyfriend who is a lay-around lout. Dot still wonders what happened to her father who went out for a pack a cigarettes and never returned. Dot is still quite angry with her missing father who went for cigarettes and has been missing for 10 years.

One day a guy named Elbert shows up and declares himself the father's brother. No one knows who the fuck Uncle Elbert is, even though he claims he is the missing father's brother. He convinces Mom and Grandmom but Dot doesn't much like Elbert. Elbert ends up parking his van there and staying. Elbert wants to help out the family now that he is out of prison for bank robbery. Dot is not impressed with a failed bank robber.

Things drag on for Dot. She bashes her sister's boyfriend with a piece of lumber after the borfriend bashed Raylynn with his fist. This ends Dot up in court with a week's worth of labor at the local animal shelter (which she enjoys). Dot then reads a carnival poster announcing a cash prize for any roller derby team to play and win against the carnival's roller derby team. Well, now Dot has a goal. She talks about the idea to co-workers and they are interested. She tells Uncle Elbert who reveals his past job experience as a skating clown and roller derby fan.

Meanwhile, Dot keeps wondering about her father. She partly wants to beat him to a pulp. She partly wants to hug him as hard as she can. When she tries a simple web search she discovers he lives less than an hour away. Dot and Elbert go to visit her dad. Things happen and I won't give them away.

Another fine story by Lansdale. He always handles difficult family situations and love affairs with a rough grace. His heroes and heroins know when they've done wrong and try to do better, even though they'd rather hit someone with a piece of lumber. His characters recognize their foibles.


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