Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Bumper Crop
Joe R. Lansdale
Golden Gryphon Press, 275 pages

Art: John Picacio
Bumper Crop
Joe R. Lansdale
Joe R. Lansdale has been a student of the martial arts for more than thirty years. In fact, his standard day is six hours at the typewriter, three hours at Lansdale's Self Defense Systems, the martial-arts studio which he owns and at which he teaches. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, with his wife, Karen, writer and editor.

Joe R. Lansdale Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Bumper Crop

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Confession time: I'm not a huge horror fan. Yes, I read the occasional short piece and keep up with the trends in the field, but when it comes to leisure time reading, I don't seek it out. The chills and thrill and outright scares don't push the same buttons in my reptilian hindbrain that they do in true fans of the genre. That said, it's time to pull up a chair as I spend the next half-dozen paragraphs telling you why you need to go out and buy Joe R. Lansdale's creep-fest collection, Bumper Crop.

I'm a great admirer of Lansdale's writing prowess. That, in a nutshell, is why I'm willing to read pretty much anything put out under his byline. And he writes some damn horrific stuff, things that I wouldn't go within a hundred miles of otherwise. But Lansdale has such a natural skill with the written word that I'm enraptured by the raw elegance of his storytelling down to the sentence level. He writes with such an unabashed confidence -- treats the most hideous subjects with a reverent tenderness, shovels the most rancid cow pies with the straightest face -- that there's almost no way a reader can't fall under his spell.

So what I'm basically saying here is that Bumper Crop is Lansdale's version of a Greatest Hits album, right? Wrong. High Cotton is his Greatest Hits. Top to bottom, it's a better book, with better stories. If you don't own it, you should track it down post-haste. What Bumper Crop amounts to is the literary equivalent of a Best Of record, gathering those popular album cuts and B-sides that weren't really hits, but have proven their popularity in workman-like fashion over the long haul. Taken together, the two books comprise a pretty definitive overview of Lansdale's short fiction career.

The width and breadth of Lansdale's ability isn't quite as apparent here as in that earlier collection, but it's still impressive. "Cowboy," an urban vignette touching on old west stereotypes, is as understated and melancholy as they come, with an emotional resonance that lingers far longer than it takes to read the story. "Fire Dog," on the other hand, is a matter-of-fact sprint of absurdity, following the career of a man forced to take a job as a fire department's mascot. Delivered with Lansdale's unflappable, look-you-square-in-the-eye style, the one thing that's conveyed beyond any doubt is that you do not ever want to play poker against this man. That is, unless you want to lose.

The surreal "Fish Night" is moody and atmospheric, strongly reminiscent of Steven Utley's 1976 story "Ghost Seas," which explored similar themes in similar fashion. This being a Lansdale story, however, the reader can be assured that it has got significantly more teeth than the Utley piece. "The Shaggy House," is a weird adventure that combines elements of Lansdale's "God of the Razor" cycle of stories with his Something Lumber This Way Comes and even "Bubba Ho-Tep." Wicked vampire houses would do well to stay on the good side of the geriatric set. "The Man Who Dreamed" is something of a retelling of the Cassandra myth, as filtered through Ray Bradbury. It's as effective as it is unpretentious.

A good percentage of the stories are pretty brutal horror tales, made all the more powerful by contrast with some of the lighter fare here. "God of the Razor" opens the book on a resoundingly harsh note, with bloody goings-on at the cursed Galveston house featured so prominently in Lansdale's novel Nightrunners. It's good, but disturbing. "Duck Hunt" is a gruesome coming-of-age tale, in which a young boy gets more than he bargained for on his rite of passage hunting trip with his father. "Down By the Sea Near the Great Big Rock" chronicles a happy family's descent into homicidal madness on what was to be an innocent weekend camping trip. Sometimes senseless violence can be so, well, senseless, but Lansdale turns a merely troubling story into one that's downright sinister with an unforseen denouement. The final story, "Master of Misery," draws heavily on Lansdale's martial arts background for a bare-knuckled take on "The Most Dangerous Game." The style and tone is reminiscent of "My Steel Valentine," collected earlier in High Cotton, but unlike that story, "Master of Misery" boasts no winners once the fighting is done, only losers.

Longtime fans of Lansdale will most likely already have Bumper Crop, or at least have the stories collected here in some form or fashion. Newcomers to his work will be better off sampling High Cotton, since there's a wider range and variety of story on display in that collection. But for those readers arriving late to the party -- be they casual fans or disciples of Mojo Storytelling -- well, this book was made for you. For all those reader who've been unable to track down Lansdale's older collections like Bestsellers Guaranteed and A Fistful of Stories, again, this book was made for you. It contains some weird stuff and some scary stuff, but all of it's good stuff. If a hearty dose of Mojo Storytelling is what you've got a craving for, you've come to the right place.

Copyright © 2004 Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Jayme Lynn Blaschke writes science fiction and fantasy as well as related non-fiction. A collection of his interviews, Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak, is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press and he also serves as fiction editor for His web log can be found at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide