SHORT AND SWEET STORYTELLING: JOE R. LANSDALE'S THE SENIOR GIRLS BAYONET DRILL TEAM
Joe Lansdale admitted that if he could make a living by just writing short stories, he'd do it. His love of the form comes across in the writing that is both well crafted while often driving into experimentation. Many of his latest short stories in the past few years have been collected in The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team.
The title story is both classic Lansdale as well as the writer stretching his muscles with this account of a team of high school girls competing in a blood sport. Joe plants just enough enough details to meet our imagination halfway for us to picture the sport and the world it takes place in as he mainly focuses on the relationships within the team. Picture Lansdale's voice melding Megan Abbott with John Carpenter.
The collection shows he had a lot of fun using animals lately. "Gorillas In The Yard" starts out comic and works toward a chilling last sentence. "Monkey's Uncle" uses a primate to satirize mail fraud and the genealogy craze. "Camel" pokes some very funny holes in racial friction with a great twist end.
Of course there are several horror tales. "Dead Man's Curve", a part of a George romero tribute, puts brother and sister street racers into The Night Of The Living Dead world. He co-wrote Snapshot, an eighties influenced horror about two criminals who find something more evil than them, with his daughter Kasey. He serves up a few ghost stories and booksends the collection with two weird westerns, one featuring his "hero" The Reverend Jedidiah Mercer.
He shows his skill within the different subgenres of crime fiction. "The Skull Collector" pits several folks trying to get the skull of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid's girl for themselves. He creates slowburn tension with "Charlie The Barber", about the title character and his daughter being taken hostage,
We also experience different modes we don't often see from Joe. "Bullets And Fire" is a gritty crime story in the George Pelecanos vein. "The Bright City On The Hill", written for Ferrari Magazine shows his poetic and romantic side.
The Senior Girls's Bayonet Team holds over twenty-five stories with Joe supplying new and insightful notes on each one. They show the level he has risen to and hints at where it is going. It is good to know that not only is he still knock these yarns out, but knocking them out of the park.