Special Guest - Joe R. Lansdale

Photo: Larry D. Moore

With more than thirty books to his credit, Special Guest Joe R. Lansdale is the Champion Mojo Storyteller. He's been called "an immense talent" by Booklist; "a born storyteller" by Robert Bloch; and The New York Times Book Review declares he has "a folklorist's eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur's sense of pace." He's won numerous awards, including eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, a British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Horror Critics Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, the "Shot in the Dark" International Crime Writer's Award, the Golden Lion Award, the Booklist Editor's Award, the Critic's Choice Award, and a New York Times Notable Book Award.

Joe R. Lansdale on the web:

Joe R. Lansdale - Q&A

Some Questions Asked by Scott Cupp (originally published in Progress Report 4)

1 You did not start out as a fiction writer, rather, you sold some nonfiction western-related stuff. Will that ever be collected and will people still enjoy it?

The nonfiction I wrote early on is pretty weak tea, so no. It won't. Some of it is dated, for one thing, and all of it was from me learning my craft, so I'll just let it die a small death. Some of the movie reviews I wrote in seventies and eighties, however, I do plan to collect at some point, if even in a limited way.

2 Once your fiction began to sell, you used to write a story a day for quite a while. Do you recommend that for beginning writers? If so, why? If not, why not? It seems to have worked for you.

It worked for me. I can't say for others, but it helped me get a lot of crap out of my system, and I went at it like a martial artist, which I am. I did it as drills to sharpen the skills. I think it did. Readers are the final judge of that, however. So, I think it works well, but not everyone will be comfortable with it. I wasn't comfortable with it, but I was determined to cover a lot of ground fast and learn as quickly as was humanly possible for me. I got rid of a lot of old stories that I rewrote, without knowing it at the time, and I learned they were all problematic simply because I wasn't a solid kind of genre writer. I was too freefloating for it. I did do a few decent, readable stories, however, if nothing great.

3 What of your work would you recommend to people unfamiliar with what you have done? Let's look at it by genre:

Science Fiction

The Drive In, or Flaming Zeppelins, which is two books bound together about Ned the Seal and historical and literary figures.

Dark Fantasy

This one would be a lot of short stories. I've worked in the field, but mostly in short stories, and it may be how you define dark fantasy. Captured By The Engines, A Batman Novel, if you can find it might fit. The Magic Wagon might fit.


You know, Nightrunners would work, but to some degree so would The Drive In. Its kind of science fiction, dark fantasy, horror, and satire. It covers a lot of basis. For pure pulp fun, I think Dead In the West is still pretty entertaining


I've done a lot of crime novels, but few have true mysteries. I think Mucho Mojo is a good one, but I don't think the mystery is all that strong. Leather Maiden is another example. Or for that matter, Two Bear Mambo and Bad Chili, which are part of the Hap and Leonard series, as is Mucho Mojo. The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line have stronger mysteries, I think. Lost Echoes certainly has mystery elements. So it's hard to choose. I'm going to pick one, however, and say The Bottoms.


Very little of my nonfiction is collected, but I have a book of essays and nonfiction planned. In the meantime, I think Unhinged and Unchained, or The King and Other Stories would be a place to start. They are part fiction and part nonfiction, but I don't believe my best nonfiction has been collected yet.

Young Adult

All the Earth Throw To the Sky is my favorite Young Adult, though The Boar is close behind. I have others forthcoming.


Sanctified and Chicken Fried from The University of Texas Press, or The Best of Joe R. Lansdale, though Hell Through A Windshield got modified t oo much. It was supposed to have updated films in the fantasy section, but not the memoir section. It mentions Sawas if I saw it. Never have. I plan on having the original reprinted. High Cotton would be a third pick. I think there have been about twenty short story collections.


Retro Pulp Tales is really fun, but close is Dark at Heart, a dark suspense anthology I co-edited with my wife.

4 You are frequently defined as a regionalist. Do you agree with that designation or is there a better one that you would prefer? I personally like "Damn Fine Writer" but I am prejudiced in your favor.

I think that can be accurate for a lot of my work, but not all, and it can be limiting. I think, however, if you write about the South or Texas, you are called that. It doesn't seem to be as strongly labeled for other parts of the country, but we get that here a lot. I think it hurt me in the beginning, but as time has gone on it's become my calling card, and I think it puts as many beans on the table as it takes away. And finally, it's who I am. The labels are falling away gradually and I'm just becoming better known as an American Writer. I like that. My genre is simply The Lansdale Genre.

5 You are in the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame twice. Tell us a little about your experiences and how it has affected your life.

I started training in boxing and wrestling and self-defense when I was eleven, and did that until I was thirteen and started taking Judo. I think that was when I really got deep into it, and I've been doing it ever since; all manner of martial arts. I invented Shen Chuan, based on all these arts and my particular approach to them, as a blended art, same as my writing, about twenty years ago, but have been a martial artist for fifty years. I think it has given me confidence, direction, and discipline. I love it still. I teach private lessons now, but the school and the instructors continue the normal classes three days a week. We also have camps and seminars and the like.

6 The best film based on your work (so far) is Bubba Ho-Tep but Christmas with the Dead is quite fun. Give us a little insight into your relationship with Hollywood and the news on anything that might be fast tracking right now.

I have optioned numerous short stories and novels over the years, some for many years. Ridley Scott has The Big Blow. I have been trying to do The Bottoms with Bill Paxton as director, and Cold In July and the short story "The Pit" are supposed to be filmed next year. We'll see. I have the Hap and Leonard books optioned for a cable show, and it may or may not happen. Sunset and Sawdust is also in the process of being optioned. A Fine Dark Line was also optioned, but that ended. Many short stories have been optioned. I can't even keep up with it. My son and I are planning on writing a screenplay for a film tentatively titled A Bloody Little Paradise in the near future, and I hope to direct it myself. It depends on how things go. There was also Incident Off and On A Mountain Road. It was filmed by Don Coscarelli as part of Showtime's Masters Of Horror. It came out well. Christmas With The Dead was done on a shoestring, and my son wrote the script, and there's a lot of friend and family participation. It's showing at the Torino, Italy film festival later this year. It came out well and is a lot of fun, as you say.

7 Family is a big part of your life. Your daughter Kasey is working as a professional singer/songwriter and she acted in Christmas with the Dead. Your son Keith works for a paper and has written some stories and comic work, not to mention the screenplay to Christmas with the Dead, And your wife Karen keeps everything going and edited Dark at Heart with you. "Will kneel before Joe!" be the next big watchword?

My family seems to have been draw in by the lifestyle. Kasey is known as a singer and songwriters, but she is also the editor of Impossible Monsters, forthcoming from Subterranean later this year, and the e-book anthology Fresh Blood And Old Bones from Biting Dog Press. She has also written a novel that she hopes to market. She has done a bit of acting and modeling. Keith worked as a journalist for several years, then started his own online newspaper titled Everything Nac, which handles news and events here in the Nacogdoches area. He has adapted comics that have appeared, and is working on a run of comics based on my stories about the Reverend from Dead In the West. And, the screenplay you mentioned. I think he is more inclined toward journalism, but I know he has a novel he's been working at off and on.

8 Anything you would like to mention or plug at this point?

I'll plug the paperback for The Edge of Dark Water. It comes out in February from Mulholland / Little, Brown, and it has story notes in the back. Also, All the Earth Thrown To the Sky from Delacorte is now out in paper. And Edge is still available in hardcover. I'm finishing up a new novel now titled Everything Sparkles in Hell.