Long-time readers of Joe Lansdale’s fiction will agree: he’s an author of many hats. Between his countless short stories collected in anthologies such as By Bizarre Hands, his spectacular Southern crime fiction novels The Bottoms and Edge of Dark Water and the ongoing Hap & Leonard series – a personal favourite – there’s a little bit of everything. And that’s barely scratching the surface of a long, storied writing career.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that his upcoming novel Big Lizard – co-authored by son Keith Lansdale – is about as left-field as it gets. It’s an absolutely bonkers ride that throws occult sacrifice, homicidal chickens and the super-heroic antics of a giant lizard at the wall, and makes it work in the way that so few can pull off quite like a Lansdale.
Big Lizard‘s protagonist, Buster Nix, is an out-of-shape and woefully broke young man who reluctantly picks up a job as a security guard at Pick-A-Chicken, a local fried chicken joint that allows customers to slaughter their own meal.
Becoming too curious for his own good, Buster stumbles into the middle of an occult ritual performed by his employer, whose fame and fortune is the result of a devilish deal with the all-powerful Lizard God. His interruption results in an explosive incident that imbues him with the power of the Lizard God himself – and his employer intends to finish the ritual, albeit in the body of a huge chicken.
It’s incredibly silly, incredibly violent and it’s easy to imagine this tale playing out in the form of an Adult Swim animated series. Despite the goofy tone, Joe and Keith manage to flesh Big Lizard‘s cast out far more than you might expect; the result is an array of memorable characters whose antics are as compelling as they are hilarious.
There’s plenty of room for more adventures with Buster and his sidekicks here, as long as their creators are interested. It’s a short but sweet read at 240 pages, keeping its laughs fresh and ensuring it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Big Lizard will be released September 30 by SST Publications.
An advance review copy of Big Lizard was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.