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As prolific as Joe R. Lansdale is, a new release of his book still feels like an event. His latest The Donut Legion features Charlie Garner, a writer and retired private detective, who teams up with his brother, Felix, who he left his business to, to track down his missing ex wife he saw in an apparition. A local reporter falls in, and for Charlie, with them as their search leads to cults, U.F.O,'s donut shops, and an oddly dressed chimp. Hard Word caught up with some questions about the book and some other recent work.

The Hard Word: Even for you, The Donut Legion is an offbeat mystery. What was the initial spark for it?

Joe R. Lansdale: Over the years cults, especially those connected to aliens and flying saucers, have fascinated me. They seemed based on the flimsiest evidence, but there's always someone eager to join them. The conspiracy theories are not new, but the abundance of them, and the ridiculousness of them has hit an all time high. And frequently they are dangerous. Sometimes it's merely by spreading false information. Like the one about there's a child abuse ring in the basement of a pizza joint, and some idiot with the IQ of a can of green beans goes there toting a gun ready to rescue abused children in a non-existent basement. Stupidity cults like QANON, one of many false and crazy belief systems that led to the riots on January sixth. It fascinates me that people get taken in by that kind of stupidity. Lizards in

disguises running the government. Liberals eating babies to live longer. Just saying out loud seems nuts, but the worst part is most of what's in the book, at least the general ideas, are out there and have

been believed by someone. I always think of the Heaven's Gate folks and their Nikes, lying on bunks full of poison, wearing plastic bags over their heads, waiting for the arrival of the Hale Bop comet and

their spaceship ride to Nirvanah. Bless them, but really man, let's say it. That's fucking stupid. The book seems absurd at times, but then again, right now the world is full of absurdity.

H.W. : Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first novel you did a book with two brothers as the protagonists. What was writing that dynamic like?

J.R.L. : I have a brother, and we have a good relationship, but nothing like the Garners. For one thing my brother is nearly seventeen years older than me, so we both grew up like only children. I played off of

different experiences to write about them.

H.W. : One of the inventive things you do in the book is describing a sex scene with a series of numbers.

Did you know you had something in the dialogue passage where it starts or was it planned ahead?

J.R.L. : Like most stuff I write, it just happened. I thought it would be funny.

H.W. : The book touches on cults and your skepticism of religion. What aspect of that theme did you want to look at it this time?

J.R.L. : Sort of touched on already. But to me the thing we need to look out for is how gullible we've become. There were always con men out there and willing idiots, meaning the happily stupid. Not stupid in all ways of their lives, but people who are so bored or empty of purpose, this

is a refuge for them. But come on, there are people who think Trump is running the White House disguised as Biden. And some believe Biden and a lot of folks are lizards in disguise. Naw. None of that sounds stupid as nail and tack bath, now does it? Let's call stupid what it is. Stupid.

H.W. : As a lot of your books, Donut Legion takes place in a small town. Other than familiarity, what does it allow you as a writer to do as opposed to a big city?

It's what I know. I think both cities and rural areas have their own quirks, but in the end, they are mostly driven by the same wants and needs.

H.W. : Late last year Subterranean Press put out Events Concerning that has your nineties novella, Events

Concerning A Nude Fold-Out In A Harlequin Romance and a new sequel, Events Concerning Two Stabbed Clowns In A Bloody Bathtub. Had you always planned after Fold-Out to do another story with Plebin, Jasmine, and Martha in the last few decades or did the idea of a sequel come recently?

J.R.L. : I had planned to do it for a few years, and then it slipped away. If Bill hadn't asked, I might not have written it. Glad he asked. It was so much fun to write. It's kind of a throwback to Fred Brown and crime novels of a bygone era.

H.W. : You recently had a short story in Black Is The Night, a collection of fiction in honor of Cornell Woolrich. How do you approach a tale that's supposed to honor another author?

I'm really not that big a fan of his work. I like a number of things, but it mostly falls apart for me when I get to the end. The novels especially, but some of the short stories are aces. I had that story written, and it fit in the Woolrich vein, so that's the truthful and easy answer. I had written it and it was ready. The story is short, but it's grim. I always liked one of Woolrich's stories titled "The Numbers Up." It's a powerful story and leaves a mark. When he was in that mood I liked him. Also that story has another title as well. Don't remember what. But when I was writing it I was going for that tone, and then I get asked to submit for the anthology and had what I thought was the perfect story. I think it's the briefness of it that gives its punch.


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