Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The Drive In" by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe, if I may be so familiar, is a national treasure by way of Texas.  He writes westerns, mysteries, pulp action, horror, comic books and sometimes he writes them all in one big ol' stew of a thing.  His writing is sharp, concise, and often as not darkly funny.  His stories do move boy, and he knows how to rock and roll.  So if you have not read one of his books I would say, "What are you waiting for?"

Only Joe would have been able to write "The Drive In," which is a tribute to the vanishing Drive In culture, an examination of what it means to be human, and a damn fine weird story of horror and popcorn.  It's about four boys becoming men who are on their weekly all night pilgrimage to the Orbit Drive In where every Friday is horror night.  People are running around in monster suits, girls in bikinis, there is drinking and grilling and all sorts of making out.  Generally a mighty fine night to be young and in Texas.  That is, until a strange comet comes and surrounds the drive in with a thick black ...THING... that dissolves what ever touches it. 

Ok, things are bad but not so bad.  We still got movies.  We still got popcorn.  We can be civil about all this.  Who knows how many weeks that thought lasted.  Eventually, though people start becoming savage.  As Leatherface runs around on the eternal screens people between the cars begin taking lessons.  Also, popcorn only satisfies so much, some folks start thinking of grillin' up some people burgers.  Our boys have to try to survive this and survive it with humanity intact.

Our narrator takes this very hard because he is as his friend Bob said "A bleeding heart" who truly wants to believe people are not just animals.  Bob says folks aren't just animals but sonovabitches as well.  The other two spiral way out of control and end up tattoo'd armed and one on top of the other's shoulders wearing a popcorn tub as a hat.  Definitely not normal behavior and it only gets worse from there.

It's a slim book but that's just cause Joe slimmed it down to fighting weight.  It bobs, it weaves and it lands surprising punches among funny little quips.  Some images like the little girl with the dog are not going to go away soon.  When the monster of the piece the Popcorn King appears it is electricfying.  Why this hasn't been made into a film I will never know.  So far as I know the only thing they've touched of his work for film was the incredible "Bubba Ho Tep." 

Definitely, Hollywood needs to get on board!

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