Bookshots: 'Paradise Sky' by Joe R. Lansdale
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Joe R. Lansdale, author of Bubba Ho-Tep and the popular Hap and Leonard series.
Plot in a Box:
The last shots of the Civil War have just been fired and freshly freed Nat Love has the misfortune to get caught looking at a white woman’s ass. After being run out of town, Love embarks on a series of adventures throughout the Wild West, crossing paths with legends such as Wild Bill Hickok and Bronco Bob as he becomes a legendary gunslinger himself.
Invent a new title for this book:
The Misadventures of Deadwood Dick, Dark Rider of the Plains
Read this if you liked:
Deadwood (the TV show), Brules by Harry Combs
Meet the books lead(s):
Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick. Too young to remember much of slavery, except that Southern white folk is powerful upset about giving it up. Can ride a horse like a Comanche and is a crackerjack shot. Clever, quick-witted, and kind-hearted despite all he has to endure. Although deadly if crossed, Love doesn’t pursue vengeance against the man who ruined his life and murdered his father, and even pities the fool when their paths cross again.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
Michael Kenneth Williams, best known for his iconic portrayal of Omar on The Wire.
Setting: Would you want to live there?
Deadwood sounds like a cesspool, both literally and figuratively. Nat Love spends a considerable portion of the book trying to get away from that place, and I can only agree with his judgment.
What was your favorite sentence?
Like all of Lansdale’s books, Paradise Sky is littered with quotable prose. It was hard to narrow them down to two favorites:
I was so confident, had I been a smidgen more confident, I’d have had to hire someone to walk alongside me and help carry my confidence.
Banks and churches just about ruin everything.
Paradise Sky is a fun take on the traditional Western with a non-traditional protagonist. Black cowboys rarely get the spotlight in this genre, despite being an integral part of the history. Nat Love takes the reader on a tour of the lives of black cowboys, soldiers, and marshals. While their lives were mostly never-ending lists of horrible injustices, Nat’s wit and charm as a narrator makes it not just a bearable, but enjoyable read. Lansdale has perfected the technique of taking simple, “common” language and making it sound downright literary, turning profanity into poetry. Descriptions are vivid and evocative despite their vague wordings. Action is rendered tight, concise and effective, while dialogue sprawls here and there, punctuated with jokes and Nat’s summaries of longer diatribes. Meeting new and absurd characters is a highlight of Lansdale’s fiction, and Paradise Sky is no different. A recurring theme of the novel is the disparity between who a person is and who they appear to be, and watching a Lansdale character slowly reveal their many layers over the course of a story is always rewarding. Also fun is the novel’s running commentary on the long-standing literary practice of exaggerating real-life historical figures into fictional heroes, while gleefully indulging in the behavior itself. I like metafictional criticism in my Westerns, but even if you don’t belong to that incredibly specific demographic, Paradise Sky still has enough guns, glory and goofiness to keep you entertained.
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