The Boar by Joe R. Lansdale
reviewed by Teresa Tunaley
In The Boar, award-winning author Joe Lansdale displays once again his excellence for storytelling. In the 121 pages of this short novel, Lansdale cleverly combines both humour and horror into a heartwarming story of tragedy, love and despair.
The reader is taken on an adventure to Texas during the Great Depression of the '30s as we follow in the footsteps of fifteen-year-old Richard Dale and his encounter with a giant boar, better known to all the locals as 'Satan'.
Lansdale creates a unique world that draws on folklore for its inspiration. For me, the story was original, not of my time, my era. I was captured from the first three opening paragraphs, and so intrigued that I then went on to read this book in less than 4 hours.
This is a well-written, engaging story, and the vividly-realized characters and relationships make it even more pleasing. These are people we could all empathize with. Lansdale describes his characters, their surroundings, dress, and mannerisms so skilfully that your mind may easily imagine the accrued grime on those sweat-stained hats and each thorny bramble in the thick undergrowth.
The dialogue flows at a wonderful pace with each page, written in a captivating style that was not complicated, neither too slow, nor too fast. Lansdale writes with such logical detail, yet the references he makes remain quite reassuringly simple.
Two paragraphs particularly stood out for me. In them, Lansdale describes Old Uncle Pharaoh, who is supposedly one hundred and fifty years old:
"Howdy, Uncle Pharoah."I couldn't find a negative word to say about this book, and I look forward to reading more of Lansdale's work.
He cocked his head to my direction. "Howdy yourself, little white boy." He smiled at me. There wasn't a tooth in his head, just withered gums that reminded me of a dog-chewed leather.
If Uncle Pharoah wasn't that old, he had to be awful dadburned close. I'd never seen anyone that looked as old as he did. Even some of the pictures of dried up dead folks I'd seen, mummies they were called, didn't look as old as Uncle Pharoah. He was shiny bald, toothless, and his eyes were an odd gray color, like maybe they'd been poked with pins to let the brown run out. His skin was more wrinkled than a raisin and it looked tough enough to have come off an old mule collar. His arms were knotty looking and his wrecked legs looked as twisted as bois d'ark limbs.
The Boar is illustrated by Alex McVey. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to see many of McVey's creations, and here, once again, his wonderful skills help bring Lansdale's words to life.