Joe R. Lansdale’s Act of Kindness

The generosity of some writers never fails to amaze me. Yesterday I posted a bloggery called “Is Genre Writing an Endangered Species?” I quoted Andrew Vachss’s words from the foreward of the 1995 edition of Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, Act of Love, and today I found the following comment on my blog. I’m presuming it’s partly due to the wonders of Google Alerts, but it’s mostly due to Joe R. Lansdale. An act of kindness. Or an act of promotion. Either way, it impressed me. Joe Lansdale wrote:

Interesting to see Andrew’s kind words again. I have no idea who invented the serial killer novel, but my book has been cited by many as being the beginning of the type of novels that have become such a mainstay. I will also agree that it isn’t a great book. I was young when I wrote it, and I hope you’ll be kind enough to try some of the others, THE BOTTOMS, MUCHO MOJO, LEATHER MAIDEN, etc. But the bottom line is I think it blended a lot of things that are now thought of as the serial killer novel’s back bone. Actually, when I finished that book, I moved on. I’ve written about serial killers since, but never in that way, and never in any way as the heroes of a piece. Genre writing and mainstream writing are welding together, and sometimes in good and interesting ways. But the old fashioned genre writing is disappearing. Maybe it should. All things mutate. LONESOME DOVE was a Western, and a great one. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is bestselling genre, and so on. It’s there. It won’t die, but it will mutate. As for ACT OF LOVE, I think there may be a thirty year anniversary volume, 2011, and then I retire it. The reason it doesn’t have the impact it had then is now so many people have done what I did, and better than when I did it. But it’s also dated, and probably, at this juncture, my worst novel. But man, I’m glad I wrote it. I’ve been amazed over the years at how many writers have told me it influenced them. Surprising. I was just trying to learn how to write a novel and have a good time at it and maybe discuss a few social issues, if in a superficial way. Anyway, Thanks for the space. Joe Lansdale

Thank you for commenting, Joe. I will definitely check out your other books.

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Is Genre Writing an Endangered Species?

I’m sure you’re all getting sick of me and my comments about the publishing industry, so today I thought I’d let someone else write about it. Andrew Vachss is guest blogging here blog today, though “ghost blogging” would probably be a better word for it. He doesn’t know he’s a guest and might not be happy if he finds out, so don’t be surprised if this post disappears.

I found this bit by Vachss in the foreword of Act of Love by Joe R. Lansdale, which might be the book that started the serial killer genre. (I always thought Thomas Harris started it, but this book predates his by several years.) I wasn’t impressed by the book (sorry Joe and Andrew) but I did find Vachss’s words interesting. He wrote:

Genre writing is an endangered species . . . for all the reasons any species starts to run out of road. Overpopulation, in-breeding, lack of natural predators, limited food supply. Words don’t work as stand-alones; they gather their power from juxtaposition . . . from context, from precision placement. But, in our game, words have become de-valued currency-you can’t count on them anymore. Our field is overdosed with flab: take some gratuitous, implausible violence, throw in some unrealistic sex, splatter some guts and hair on the nearest wall, sprinkle in a touch of mystical reference . . . and you’re walking on the “dark” side.

Sure.

The genres . . . horror, crime, fantasy, whatever . . . all have their built-in places to hide. Write something stupid, it’s a metaphor. Write something mean-spirited and small, it’s satire.

Getting published is pretty easy today. And that’s good. I’m all for an open admissions policy. But the sorting-out phase, the natural, organic process by which the strongest survive . . . that’s not happening. What we have instead is favor-trading, networking, and other sordid forms of insulation from the culling edge of the evolutionary razor. When the awards outnumber the candidates, we’re heading for the Wall. With no breaks and the steering locked.

Remember I told you that the genre market was in trouble? A dragon’s coming soon . . .coming down hard. It’s going to walk through the jungle, clearing out the dead vines with its breath, stomping on those that can’t get out of the way. A hard, cleansing wind is going to blow.

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