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Spotlight on: Lost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale

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Lost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale Joe R. Lansdale, Lost Echoes

Joe R. Lansdale has the enviable ability to write in any genre he chooses and produce a novel that only he could have written. This has gained him a rabid following among those who seek his particular brand of darkly humorous front-porch storytelling. For years, he was known only in horror circles (he has won six Bram Stoker Awards at this writing), but the new century has seen his name rise in the crime genre.

This rise is due somewhat to his Hap Collins–Leonard Pine series of dark adventures, but also because of his standalone crime novels, including 2000's Edgar Allan Poe Award–winning The Bottoms and the more recent titles A Fine Dark Line and Sunset and Sawdust. Lost Echoes is his latest, and it showcases an author who is not afraid to delve deep within himself in the name of producing powerful fiction.

Harry Wilkes has the gift, but he calls it his curse. When violent events occur, the memories of those events become locked in the sounds associated with them. When those sounds are recreated, Harry can see those memories. This unrequested ability has turned him into an alcoholic at age 20, because it's the only thing that blocks out the sounds.

When they were kids, Harry and his friends Kayla and Joey were inseparable. Then Kayla moved away, and now Harry only has sad, bitter Joey left. So they drink, and they drink, and one night, after yet another bout of drinking, they spy a man, who they thought was as drunk as they were, soundly defeat three muggers with ease and fluidity, whereupon he passes out cold.

This man is Tad, and he's about to change Harry's life through giving up booze (which also means giving up Joey) and devoting himself to the study of martial arts, both physically and philosophically. Things are greatly improving with Harry, and then Kayla comes back to town and wants Harry to use his skills to solve the murder of her father. Whether she really wants to know the answer isn't even up for discussion once Harry decides that he doesn't want to go back into the darkness.

Every new Joe R. Lansdale novel is cause for celebration. Lost Echoes may be more so, because it is very likely the best thing he has ever written. Lansdale has taken a character with a slightly supernatural condition, stuck him inside a crime thriller, and added some special touches that could only have come from deep within Lansdale's own psyche. (The martial-arts angle is no mere conceit: Lansdale operates his own studio teaching the style he invented: Shen Chuan Martial Science.) As a result, he has somehow produced a story that is both his most accessible and very likely his most personal. It should boost Lansdale to the popular success he has so richly deserved for a long time now.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2007. Reprinted with permission.

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