Joe R. Lansdale
Cover – John Coulthart
Illustrations – Nikita Knatz
Putting this book on the shelves of the Strange Kids Clubhouse just made everything, well, stranger. Just to warn you of what that means, let’s take a very quick crash course on the author.
If H.P. Lovecraft and Mr. Miyagi’s DNA were spliced together the resulting humanoid creature would be called Joe R. Lansdale. Lansdale is the mad man who penned the story of Bubba Ho-Tep, that was later adapted as a feature film thanks to Phantasm director Don Coscarelli. Not only that, but Lansdale has written some rather infamous comic-related works in genres that includes horror (specifically “splattercore”). On top of that, Lansdale is also in the martial arts hall of fame—he even has his own Shen Chuan martial arts school! This is who (almost) every Strange Kid wants to be when they grow up.
Now, the book I’m presenting to you charming folks is a collection of three novels that make up an omnibus. This is the Drive-In Trilogy, or as the cover says The Complete Drive-In. The tale itself is a homage to all the great B horror / sci fi films of the world with heavy doses of chaos, anarchy and some of the greatest and far out examples of imagination on this side of the third planet of our galaxy. On first reading this series, you don’t quite realize the insanity you’re getting into. It simply starts as a tale we’re all generally familiar with (“how I spent my summer vacation”) that suddenly morphs into a much darker tale filled with cannibalism, horror, love/sex and death.
The first book finds a group of friends who become trapped in a drive in theater by other worldly powers. Things get more and more absurd, our main character realizes he must be in a movie for whatever has caused this, and the people of the drive in become followers of the evil “Popcorn King.” The King is eventually taken down and a way out (window) appears for the survivors which leads into the second book.
This second book starts off with the survivors recouping from the dire events they just experience and realizing the world they drove into wasn’t the one they left. This world is a savage jungle which leaves the group feeling as if they’re on a television show set. They discover an antagonist who’s making things bad for them called Popalong Cassidy—one mean crazy S.O.B. with the powers of a forgotten God sporting a television for a head. The third and final book wraps things up, giving the survivors some much-desired insight on how they got into this predicament.
Indie comic company Avatar Press later adapted Lansdale’s trilogy into a comic mini-series that’s actually spot on to the book with no real changes to the story aside from some minor details which I felt should have stayed. Likewise, the visuals are pretty superb and complement the tone of the story well, but I honestly prefer the books a great deal more. In either case, whether you read the comics or check out the books, you’re in for one Hell of a twisted tale. If absurdity is what you like to add to your cup of coffee in the mornings, try this out… make sure to use Stevia instead of sugar, though.
OUT OF 5
You’re on this site, so you fit the bill as someone who can truly appreciate this madness. A great series of books that give you some awesome mental imagery… just don’t share them with your psychiatrist.
+ Easy to read
+ High level of suspense
+ SPLATTERCORE genre
– Irritating B-movie cliches
– Awkward dark humor