High Cotton: Selected Stories of Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale's short story collection High Cotton is horror served up Texas-style. Similar to Stephen King, whose work is always filled with the kitsch of the his youth growing up and living in Maine, Lansdale imbues all his stories, whether they involve an elderly man running Death off the road in his old pickup truck or two young men chasing their friend who happens to be trapped in the jaws of a gator, with the spirit of the South.

The horror rarely resorts to anything supernatural - out of the 21 stories, only the aforementioned story concerning Death entitled "Not From Detroit" has anything that could be considered fantastical. Instead, Lansdale opts for circumstances and tensions straight out of a Cohen Brothers film, mixing the horror with humor and insight into the human condition. "Booty and the Beast" plays like an insane version of BLOOD SIMPLE, and begs (in my mind, at least) to be brought to the screen.

There are science fiction stories, alternate reality stories, out and out horror, and simply funny stories. Lansdale tackles them all in his signature style that is instantly absorbing and wicked to read. "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was turned into one of the only decent episodes of the Showtime MASTERS OF HORROR series (although they embedded a supernatural element not present in the actual story), and the rest, while maybe not being filmed, play with a filmic quality as you read them. Gruesome and funny, sometimes all at once, High Cotton is a great place to start as an introduction to Joe Lansdale.