Book Title: Paradise Sky
Release Date: June 16,
Publisher/Imprint: Mulholland Books, an imprint of Hachette
Number Pages: 416
Sky by Joe R. Lansdale is to immerse oneself in a
realm of roughneck, shoot-’em-up western writing where fact and fiction blend
effortlessly on the page, and the action is only outgunned by the author’s tilt
for beautiful literary prose.
For that’s the thing about Lansdale: His writing keeps you riveted by fleet
pacing, bawdy characters, sharp-witted banter, and enough action to stampede a
cavalry train, but it’s never cheap, it’s never gratuitous. Instead he fills
each page with heartbreak, suspense, hope, and laughter through the lives and
situations of his characters. They’re fallible, impassioned, the type of people
you could imagine filling your own life, only these characters are ratcheted up
tenfold, magnifying the ugliness of their lusts, the shock of their
misfortunes, the satisfaction of recompense.
The story goes that Nat Love (AKA Deadwood Dick), a teenage black man, becomes
fugitive from a Texas lynch mob after daring to gaze upon the derriere of a
white woman in full public view while she’s hanging laundry. Her husband, Sam
Ruggert, as vile a relentless zealot as any penned by Melville or McCarthy,
dedicates life and resources to hunting down and punishing the ‘uppity’ youth.
Paradise Sky follows the life of Nat
as he grows up and searches the country for himself, and pursues love and
freedom and adventure. He becomes a buffalo soldier, a gunslinger and trick
shot, an associate of Wild Bill Hickok; he befriends many and makes equal number
of enemies, all the while looking over his shoulder for Ruggert, who continues
to hunt him, set to ruin or kill any good thing that happens in Nat’s life.
It’s a long, tragic journey Nat Love travels, and every day seems fraught with
tough obstacles and tougher choices.
And, as fantastic as the story is, it’s founded in historic fact. The real Nat
Love birthed over a century of Old West mythology as a freed slave turned
gunslinger and Indian fighter; his attributed persona, ‘Deadwood Dick’ become
the fodder for dime store adventure novels throughout the late 1800s. But what
of Nat’s lore really happened or got fictionalized over the years matters less
than a man’s chances of quick-drawing on Nat himself; It’s all just good storytelling.
Besides the western genre, Joe R. Lansdale has also successfully written in
horror, action, mystery, and suspense, all in formats of novels, short stories,
and comics. Fans of Paradise Sky may
further enjoy his works of similar tone: The
Bottoms (winner of the Edgar Award), The
Thicket (one of best historical fiction books of 2013 per Library Journal), and Edge of Dark Water (2012 Booklist
Editors' Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults by the American Library
Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/paradise-sky
Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His
recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist
for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of
fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.