Joe L. Lansdale has become known as a noted mystery writer with the breakthrough of his Hap & Leonard series (the latest, DEVIL RED, coming very soon); and down the road, we’ll take a look at it… but before that mainstream success, Lansdale built up a frenzied cult of readers by writing gonzo unclassifiable stories.
One of those being the novel THE DRIVE-IN, a twisted love letter to lo-budget exploitation fare, wherein the patrons of a Texas drive-in go from being the audience of the main feature, to being IN one, with all of the trimmings – explosions, cannabalism, mutants, and general bad behavior all around.
Like all good drive-in fare, there was a sequel, THE DRIVE-IN 2, which followed the survivors from THE DRIVE-IN into even more twisted adventures and added some new characters. Both books went quickly out of print, leaving followers in their wake who took to used bookstores or libraries, or small press catalogs to scratch that itch.
Now that Lansdale has ‘broken through’, that has allowed THE DRIVE-IN Saga to be collected into one volume, THE COMPLETE DRIVE-IN: Three Novels of Anarchy, Aliens, & The Popcorn King.
Oh, the third novel? Well, trilogies were the hottest thing, now weren’t they? THE DRIVE-IN 3, which brings in newer characters and more crazed situations does provide some answers to the goings on in the previous books and it’s a good stopping point; but it does leave some room for continuing adventures, if the muse strikes a fourth time. It quickly sold out as a limited edition, so it’s great that all three are available in an affordable edition.
THE COMPLETE DRIVE-IN is a good introduction to the other side of Lansdale for newer fans, and a good keepsake for the die-hards; but even more ‘out there is FLAMING ZEPPELINS. Subtitled, “The Adventures of Ned The Seal”, FZ brings together into one volume 2 linked novels, ZEPPELINS WEST and FLAMING LONDON, where Ned is a recurring character in both.
FLAMING ZEPPELINS is a flat out crazy genre mashup – crazy as in Nic Cage-type crazy – that Lansdale does SO well. ZEPPELINS WEST starts out as an alternate history adventure kicking off with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show on tour and heading for Japan… the method of transportation is via zeppelin and Buffalo Bill is a floating head in a jar with a robotic body.
As things progress, Bill and his crew wind up stranded on a remote island under the control of a “Dr. Memo”, and a raucous parody of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU is carried out, with The Frankenstein Monster, Captain Bemo and Tin (who are suspiciously similar to Captain Nemo and The Tin Man) and even Dracula makes an appearance.
FLAMING LONDON, the follow-up, has Ned The Seal, who survived the goings-on in ZEPPELINS WEST, end up in London where he ends up, along with authors Mark Twain and Jules Verne, attempting to thwart a Martian invasion of the Earth! Some familiar faces also drop in, along with H.G. Wells himself – whose work gets a satiric workover, along with a bit of E.R. Burroughs too.
FZ is Lansdale at his wildest; it helps if you’re a genre fan, since more than likely you’ll be familiar with the works getting ruthlessly pulp-parodied. Fair warning – the humor will get a bit raw at times, so if you’re easily offended, this may not be for you. Come to think of it, if you’re easily offended, you wouldn’t be reading Lansdale at all.
About L. Rob Hubbard – In between reviewing books and films, blogging and plotting Eventual World Domination, L. Rob Hubbard also finds time to work freelance in film production. He also likes cats.”