Mysterious Press, Jan 2003, 24.95, 304 pp.
In the summer of 1958, the Mitchel family moves to Dewmont, East Texas to run the drive-in movie theatre, which they just bought. They hire half black-half Indian Buster Lighthouse Smith to operate the projector and a black woman Rosy to help Mrs. Mitchell with the cooking and the cleaning. Thirteen year old Stanley Jr. becomes closer to Buster and Rosy than he does to his parents because they listen to his dreams and fears.
While playing with his dog Nub, Stanley finds a half-buried chest. When he opens it he discovers inside a bunch of love letters written in 1942. There are no signatures on the letters only initials and Stanley becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote them and what happened to them. He figures out who the writers were by questioning various townsfolk. He and Buster, a former Seminole police officer, investigate further, an action that puts him, his family and his two friends in danger.
A FINE DARK LINE is a powerful coming of age tale set in a place and time when people of influence can get away with murder. The summer of 1958 is a traumatic time for the protagonist as he learns about sex, incest, homosexuality, and wife beating while someone tries to kill him. He successfully blackmails the town's most powerful citizens yet understands his experiences are meaningless in the greater scheme of life. Joe R. Lansdale once again transcends genre to write a haunting historical novel focusing on the human condition.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner