Monday, August 18, 2008

Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale, Leather Maiden

Joe R. Lansdale is one of my favorite writers working today. Two of my very earliest posts on this blog were about his books. On Sunday afternoon, I attended a book signing for Lansdale's newest book, Leather Maiden. And I'm happy to say, he could not have been a nicer, cooler person.

He took some questions from the audience, which was about 25-30 people. He let us know that the next Hap and Leonard book, Vanilla Ride, will be out next year, with two others ready to go in fairly rapid succession after that, which is fantastic news for Lansdale fans. He told us about the various film adaptations of his work which never quite made it to the screen, such as a Hap and Leonard film which would have starred Josh Lucas and Don Cheadle which fell apart at the last moment. He told us Bill Paxton was looking to direct the film version of one of his books (I forget which, but it was either The Bottoms or Cold in July, I think). And he told some crazy, hilarious stories, illustrating that some of the weirder things he writes about have a basis in real life.

He then read from the first three chapters in the new book, which I can't wait to get started on -- equally funny and intriguing, as usual. And finally he invited people to get their books signed.

I brought two of his novels from home for him to sign, plus the new book which I bought that day, as well as about twenty of his comics (primarily his work with Timothy Truman -- all the Jonah Hex stuff, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto mini-series). I didn't expect he'd have time to get to all the comics; in fact, I was just hoping he'd have time to sign three or four key issues. But he grabbed the whole bundle and signed everything. He loved signing stuff, he said -- that's what he was there for! (And yes, I waited until everyone else had gone first, so I didn't tie up the line. I'm considerate!)

During the Q&A, I had mentioned how hard it was to find some of his earlier books. For example, I've been searching for ages, but his first Hap and Leonard book, Savage Season, is just impossible to find, new, used, or even at a library. He said that Vintage would be reissuing the first six books starting next year -- again, great news for Lansdale fans. But then he also said if I wanted to stick around after the signing, when his wife came to pick him up, he had a whole trunk full of his old books for sale. (And no, he doesn't just drive around with a trunk full of books all the time -- at least, I don't think he does; he was stocked up because he had been at ArmadilloCon earlier that day.)

Sadly, it turned out I didn't have any cash on me at the moment. And here's how cool this guy is: he said, "Tell you what, I'll give you my address, and you can just mail the payment to me later." Who does that? Who would trust a random fan like that? That blew my mind. How incredibly generous. Too bad he's never getting his money!! (Actually, I ran across the street to an ATM. As much as I appreciated his offer, I felt it would be impolite to make him wait on a check from me like that. I'm considerate, damn it!)

So, with the help of his very sweet wife, and his lovely daughter (country singer Kasey Lansdale), we dug through the boxes in his car and found hardback copies of the first three Hap and Leonard novels, two of which, Savage Season and Mucho Mojo, I've never been able to read before. I also picked up a copy of the aforementioned Cold in July, another of his best I could never track down. And I got to pick up all four for well under the cover price. I call that a bargain. I also call it a belated birthday present to myself. I'm worth it.

Great writer, great guy, great day. If you haven't read anything by Lansdale yet (or, at the very least, watched Bubba Ho-Tep, which is based on one of his stories), you're missing out.

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