the Little Red Reviewer

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

Posted on: December 9, 2018

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

published October 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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You probably recognize Joe R. Lansdale’s name from his famous Hap and Leonard series, and fans of absurd comedy-horror will recognize his name from the novella turned movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

 

His recent short story collection Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories offers an odd yet satisfying mix of stories. There’s a little bit of everything in here – post apocalyptic, Depression era drama, the Old West,  wrestling, you name it. For the most part, these stories involve characters who have good intentions, people who are trying to do the right thing surrounded by societies that a broken down, corrupt, and in one case even a Lovecraftian hellscape.  The environments these characters are thrown into – no good can come out of these places. But these are all Lansdale characters, which means they will tell all the things that are working against them to fuck right off.

 

Each story is followed by Lansdale’s notes – was the story written for a particular editor or anthology? What was he thinking about when he wrote the stories? I wish these notes had preceded the stories instead of followed them, I found my interest grew when I started reading his notes first. (Update from the publisher:  The final version of the book has his notes before each story. I was reading an ARC.)

 

Before you hop into Driving to Geronimo’s Grave,  be aware that these are not science fiction of fantasy stories – This is character driven American Literature – only some of which has SF-nal or supernatural elements.  And if you are offended by swear words, don’t even pick this book up.

 

Here are my thoughts on the stories I enjoyed most.

 

My stand out favorite story was the Lovecraftian “In the Mad Mountains”  (2015). Survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on an icy plain. They can freeze to death, or try to survive.  Amelia and Gavin explore the area, find supplies, and try to guess where they are. It’s obvious there is some kind of creature who has picked off other people who may have found themselves here, and the mishmash of shipwrecks doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s terrifying, yet Amelia stays cool and has a scientific curiosity about where they may be. When the two of them find an airplane that appears to be in perfect working order, is it a trap, or an escape? If you’ve ever read any of Lovecraft’s original Cthulhu mythos short stories, you know a goodly chunk of it borders on unreadably bad.  But I love the idea of deep ones, of gods who wants and desires humans can never understand, I enjoy the mythos. “In The Mad Mountains” was an excellent combination of the mythos and inescapable terror I enjoy, combined with well paced action and smart characters.

“Robo Rabid” (2017)  also appeared in the Subterranean Press short story and art showcase The Weight of Words.  This robot apocalypse story took a couple of read throughs for me to appreciate what was happening.   When Sheann’s tribe is attacked by the oversized and violent robots that rule the land, he runs into the desert in hopes of eventually rescuing his parents and sister.  He finds a man named Nim, who has observed the rituals the robots perform with their human captives. What need have robots for human sacrifice? Why and how did their human programmers give them an understanding of human sacrifice?  This is a cautionary tale about how our creations, our programs, our ideas (for good and ill) will outlive us. The next generation will know what we created, what our programs were, but they’ll have no understanding of the context. Also, it’s a good thing that the killer robots in the story are actually quite dumb.

 

Who would have thought I’d have loved a story about geriatric wrestlers? “Wresting Jesus” (2013) starts off as 98 pound weakling learns self defense from the old man down the street. What it turns into is the story of a fatherless boy who finds a much needed father figure, an old man who regains a reason to live,  and a woman who might be a witch. Or maybe she isn’t? This swear word filled story is everything you didn’t think it was going to be. And oh, did I mention the geriatric wrestling match? I shouldn’t laugh at two guys beating the shit out of each other and shit talking each other, but it was kinda funny, in an absurd way.  I really never did think I’d like a story about Wrestling, but I also loved G.L.O.W., so there you go.

 

“Everything Sparkles in Hell” , is Lansdale’s newest Nat Love story and the perfect capstone to this collection.  If you want a compelling and fast history of the forgotten history of Blacks and Hispanics in the American Old West,  skip right to the end of Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and read Lansdale’s notes on “Everything Sparkles in Hell”. In this gruesome and tension filled story,  Love has been sent out to find a handful of ruffians. Instead, he finds bodies that have been ravaged by the world’s angriest bear, and his tracker friend Choctaw.  It becomes a cat and mouse story – Love and Choctaw view themselves as the cat, and of course the two-bit criminals are the mouse. Except, well, the bear is the even bigger cat.  You know how sometimes cats like to play with their food?

 

Subterranean Press offers a deluxe hardback edition perfect for collectors of Lansdale’s fiction. If you’ve never read any Lansdale and are looking for novellette length fiction to get you through the winter, the reasonably priced e-book of  Driving to Geronimo’s Grave is a good place to start.

 

2 Responses to "Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale"

Thank you — I really enjoy the story breakdown. I don’t always pick up a short story collection and read everything, so this is great.

Liked by 1 person

same here! i can’t tell you how many collections and anthologies i have where i’ve read like 2-3 stories, and then 6 months later read 2-3 more, and then 6 months later read a few more.

Liked by 2 people

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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