The Big Blow

December 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

blowThe Big Blow by Joe R. Lansdale

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By now, I think everyone knows of my love of Lansdale. If not, then stick around; after this one, I have three other novellas of his to read before returning to my usual reading schedule. I’ll speak more of this love in those reviews.

As I’ve stated before, what makes a Lansdale story a Lansdale story is his style. His snappy dialogue, violent tendencies, and ear for the weird carries his stories, even when the stories themselves are just okay. The Big Blow is one of those “okay” stories. It’s about Jack Johnson, the early 20th-century boxer, during the hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900. The premise of the story is that a local member of the Sporting Club has hired a white boxer to defeat Johnson after Johnson had defeated a white man in a previous fight. The boxer they bring in to defeat him is truly despicable in his violence toward women and how he treats those who hired him, and there is a racial undertone to the event, as the white members of the club can’t accept that a black boxer keeps winning the fights.

If the story were just about Johnson and the fight, it would have been slightly better than okay, but Lansdale includes a few secondary character that do little to progress the plot. There’s the young woman who has been abandoned by her lover after finally sleeping with him, and then there’s the young family trapped on the island during the storm. The family at least serves a purpose to the story, as their fate plays into the resolution between Johnson and the other fighter, but the young woman is just there to be spurned, and then attempt suicide during the storm. She doesn’t do much for the story, and I couldn’t see why she was included, save as a red herring (the white boxer has a preference for redheads, and she has red hair, so I kept expecting her presence to be a part of that subplot).

Lansdale can do much better than this. Sure, he can do much, much better than this (Sunset and Sawdust is my go-to Lansdale recommendation), but even his mediocre stories, like Leather Maiden and Lost Echoes, are better than this. It seems like this story was just dusted off to add one more book to his bibliography, as he and the publishers knew it would sell to the die-hard fans. I wouldn’t recommend the story to any but the most die-hard of those fans. It just doesn’t compare to what he can do with all pistons firing.

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