It is no surprise to the few people who read my reviews that Joe R. Lansdale is one of my favorite writers, and someone I champion every chance that I get. He is the most underrated writer working in America, in both genre and mainstream fiction, and wish he had more recognition than he had. Hopefully that will change with the adaption of his novel Cold in July coming out soon, which stars big names such as Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. He is a storyteller in the classical since, with hi best work echoing writers as eclectic as renowned as Mark Twain and Flannery O’Conner to pulp authors like Jim Thompson and horror authors like Shirley Jackson. But while he has been compared to those authors in the past, there is something in the heart of Lansdale’s fiction that is all his own and cannot be compared to anything else. His use of language, ancient country slang and mixing of the gothic and grotesque with the humorous and screwball antics makes for a reading experience that is unlike other. And the novel of his that I just recently finished, The Bottoms, is the perfect example of Lansdale’s unique talents. It tells the bloody, yet deeply moral tale that takes place in small Texas town in the years of the Great Depression. At the start of the novel we meet young Harry and his sister, Tom, as they are told, by their father Jacob, to go out into the woods to put down their dog Toby, who has had his back broken. While out there, lost because they were surprised Toby could still track squirrels with a broken back and being moved in a wheelbarrow, they discover the horribly mutilated body of a young black women. They immediately think that it is the work of an old legend in the area known as “the Goat Man”, who is said to live near the swinging bridge that crosses a nearby river. They think they see the creature out there, but quickly go back to their house and tell their father. Jacob, who is also the town’s constable, begins to investigate the crime quite voraciously, due to the fact that, since the person killed was black, no one in town will care if it is solved. From there, it becomes quite ride that Lansdale is known for. It plays out a lot like To Kill a Mockingbird, but this is much bloodier and better story that I wish I could have read in middle school. There is a brutal lynching that is among the most painful things Lansdale has written, which leads to Jacob’s backstory as to why he is so adamant about investigating the murder that is even sadder, and it all culminates in a twist ending that I really didn’t see coming that I’m sure will surprise every reader of this book. It is a brilliant use of misdirect on Lansdale’s part. And the epilogue is both bitter and hopeful, which is hard to believe given its circumstances. Do yourself a favor this summer, and pick up this or any other of Lansdale’s books (especially find a copy of “Night They Missed the Horror Show”, my favorite short story of all time). He deserves more serious attention.