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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: The Boar by Joe R. Lansdale


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


The Boar by Joe R. Lansdale Joe R. Lansdale, The Boar

Inspired by the more adult subject matter covered in the Young Adult novels by authors like Gary Paulsen and Robert Cormier, a young Joe R. Lansdale set out to write his own YA entry, using his particular style while telling a simple, straightforward story; The Boar was the result. Unfortunately, it proved to be impossible to sell until recently, when fans are clamoring for all of the Lansdale they can get their hands on. It first saw print in a limited Subterranean Press edition. Now Night Shade Books has given it the release it deserves with an affordable trade hardcover printing, hopefully allowing more people to read this terrific little book.

Unfortunately, it proved to be impossible to sell until recently, when fans are clamoring for all of the Lansdale they can get their hands on. It first saw print in a limited Subterranean Press edition. Now Night Shade Books has given it the release it deserves with a more affordable trade hardcover printing, hopefully allowing more people to read this terrific little book.

The story follows the coming of age of 15-year-old Richard Harold Dale ("Ricky" to his friend Abraham, with whom he shares this adventure) during the summer of 1933. When Ricky's father goes off to make money for the family the only way he can (by wrestling at fairs, just like Lansdale's own father), Ricky is left man of the house. Out hunting, he runs across the legendary boar that terrorizes the Sabine River Bottoms: Old Satan, the Devil Boar with a hoofprint the size of a man's hand (a helpful representation is embossed on the cover of the book proper).

After the boar kills Ricky's dog and attacks his family -- including his pregnant mother -- he vows to take his family's protection into his own hands and kill Old Satan once and for all (even though local sage Uncle Pharaoh says he's crazy to try). But first, he'll need some training and something larger than a .22....

The American South -- as depicted in The Boar, at least -- is a place where stubbornness doesn't get you smacked, and where adults respect the ambitions of teenagers (he tells his father he wants to be a writer and nothing whatsoever is said about "something to fall back on"). But then again, this isn't your typical Lansdale novel; he is best known for portraying the much darker side of humanity in his extreme horror stories (see The Drive-In, High Cotton, and Bumper Crop for examples).

You'll find no such over-the-top evil characters here (unless you count a boar called Old Satan, that is); only a young boy on a quest to call himself a man, and kill himself a boar. Lansdale makes the characters individuals and, although the plot, in retrospect, definitely rides the line of believability, I never doubted it for a moment. The Boar also has that unmistakable Lansdale voice coming through the page, that down-home delivery that makes his skill with dialect effortlessly ring true without becoming parodic, and has made his public readings so popular.

Night Shade has produced a beautiful volume for this edition of The Boar, including several moody, almost photographic illustrations from Alex McVey. This is an ideal choice for readers wanting an exciting nostalgic experience, and for fans of Lansdale's Edgar Award–winning The Bottoms to revisit the time and place of that novel. Here's hoping that this Young Adult entry introduces a new generation to the "champion mojo storytelling" of Joe R. Lansdale.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.


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