Edge of Dark Water

Written by Joe R. Lansdale
Review by Marina Maxwell

May Lynn dreamed about being a movie star, and when she gets murdered, her three teenaged friends decide to take her ashes to Hollywood.

But it ain’t that simple. There are complications with missing cash from a robbery, a creepy stepfather and a stoned mother, a boy who thinks he’s a sissy and a colored girl with more spit than a snake, a Reverend Joy, a pistol-packing grandma, a trail of rotting body parts, plus Skunk, a grotesque bogeyman lurking in the woods. Not only all of this, but much of the action takes place on a raft going down a river, and another famous work involving young people, a raft and a river inevitably comes to mind.

Set in East Texas during the Depression era, the story is told through the eyes of feisty 16-year-old Sue Ellen, and it keeps you in turns moved, horrified, and laughing out loud.

Lansdale certainly deserves his comparison to Mark Twain, and any allusion to that other raft story is perfectly acceptable in the face of such skilled wit and whimsy. What is more surprising in a work that belongs in the “splatter-punk” genre are the insights into dysfunctional families, the racial divide, homophobia, and how people struggled during the Dust Bowl years, when they were desperate and hungry and dreams of life being better someplace else helped to keep them going.

I embarked on Edge of Dark Water with some misgivings as to whether it was really historical fiction, but wouldn’t have missed this wild raft ride for two cans of lard. (You’ll have to read the book to find out about them.) A most memorable experience.