The Boar

November 8, 2016 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, )

boarThe Boar by Joe R. Lansdale

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I was pretty convinced I had read this book before. I used to be a regular customer of Cemetery Dance and Subterranean, so I had a pretty complete Joe Lansdale collection, including The Boar in its first printing. It turns out I owned it, but never read it. I can’t imagine why. Even then, Lansdale was a favorite writer of mine. Earlier this year I went on a “missing Lansdale” ebook buying spree, which is how I wound up having this again, and finally reading it.

The Boar is about Ricky Dale, a fifteen-year-old in 1930s Texas who helps his family on their farm. They live in the Bottoms near the river, and one of the residents in the forest that surrounds them is Old Satan, an old boar with a legendary history. After encountering Old Satan on a walk back to his house in early evening and having the boar threaten his family, Ricky and his friend Abraham take it upon themselves to hunt down Old Satan and end his reign of terror.

With this book, I realized how deft Lansdale is at writing a story. He seamlessly integrates character with setting, seguing between parts of the story that relate to each other while also supplying the necessary background for it all. On some level, I already knew all this (I’ve been reading his work for over twenty years for a reason, after all), but it was fun to finally recognize it.

It’s still not perfect. Though it’s written in Lansdale’s familiar style, it was written with the YA market in mind, so it’s tamer than his usual stuff, though it still touches on his usual themes. The final chapter feels tacked on, like Lansdale didn’t trust that his readers would understand what the preceding events would mean for the narrator. He does that sometimes in his adult books, too, but here it felt clunky and forced. Oh, and “y’all” was misspelled consistently throughout the book. I’ll give Lansdale a pass on it, since it could be the typesetter’s fault, but that’s a peeve of mine. Just so you know, the apostrophe goes between the Y and the A.

The Boar was written some time in the 1980s, long before he had developed his East Texas noir that defines his works like Sunset and Sawdust or A Fine Dark Line. You can see hints of it here in this short novel, though, and I understand some of the characters here also show up in The Bottoms. Lansdale fans will eat this up, and I think anyone looking for a well-told coming-of-age tale would, as well.

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