Edge of Dark Water
“This book could easily be labeled crime noir, but it is more of a coming of age story peopled with original and fascinating blood-and-bones characters. Inevitably, Edge of Dark Water will be compared to the work of Twain and Faulkner, but Joe Lansdale adds his own unique voice to this chillingly atmospheric tale of good and evil and adolescent angst. Edge of Dark Water has all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come.”
May Lynn Baxter is a pretty girl who dreams the impossible dream of becoming a Hollywood star—until she is found brutally murdered, her dead body dredged up from the Sabine River.
Sixteen-year old Sue Ellen Wilson, May Lynn’s strong-willed teenage friend, discovers the body, and it is her sweet voice and keen observation guiding us through this dark, terrifying tale:
“I sat on the shore and looked at May Lynn’s body. It was gathering flies and starting to smell and all I could think of was how she was always clean and pretty, and this wasn’t anything that should have happened to her. It wasn’t like in the books I had read, and the times I had been to the picture show and people died. They always looked pretty much like they were when they were alive, except sleepy. I saw now that’s not how things were. It wasn’t any different for a dead person than a shot-dead squirrel or a hog with a cut throat hanging over the scalding pot.”
Disgusted that May Lynn’s father, a reputed tough guy, thinks it best to ignore the murder of his daughter rather than reporting it to the police, Sue Ellen and her friends Terry Thomas and Jinx Smith all set out to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood. If May Lynn can’t become a star, then at the very least her remains can be spread in the land of her dreams.
All they need is some money and a raft; while the raft is easily available, stealing the money requires some gumption, but they manage it. Then they head downriver together with Sue Ellen’s mother, quickly becoming a motley crew on a mission.
Pursued by Uncle Gene and Constable Sy, who are both after the stolen money, and Skunk, an all-too-real legendary killer who’s after their lives, they begin to understand that when you set out to make the dreams of a friend your own, your worst nightmares might come along for the ride.
Sue Ellen is poor, with not a lot of schooling in her life, but she is street smart. The daily dangers in her life come from within her home. She lives with her agoraphobic mother, who is addicted to numerous brews to combat her illness.
Sue Ellen’s best friend, Jinx, is a young black girl, who also faces daily dangers. Unlike Sue Ellen, Jinx’s dangers come from outside the home, in the form of prejudice and racism.
The third member of Sue Ellen’s gang, Terry, is gay. In small-town America, the welcomes he receives are anything but warm. Although the murder of May Lynn is the channel that initially galvanizes the friends onto the river, there’s never any strong sense that their goal really is to find the killer or killers of their friend.
This book could easily be labeled crime noir, but it is more of a coming of age story peopled with original and fascinating blood-and-bones characters. Inevitably, Edge of Dark Water will be compared to the work of Twain and Faulkner, but Joe Lansdale adds his own unique voice to this chillingly atmospheric tale of good and evil and adolescent angst. Edge of Dark Water has all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come.