Fishing for Dinosaurs and Other Stories

Fishing for Dinosaurs and Other Stories

Illustration By Timothy Truman
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Dust jacket illustration by Timothy Truman.

Fishing for Dinosaurs and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale is an all-novella collection that features “Sixty-Eight Barrels on Treasure Lake,” an original that clocks in at over 28,000 words. The collection proper is preceded by a general introduction by hisownself, while each of the novellas is introduced by, variously, Robin Hobb, Poppy Z. Brite, Richard Chizmar, David J. Schow, and Norman Partridge.

About the Book:

From Wild to Wilder, you are offered a journey into the Worlds of Joe R. Lansdale. Go on a fishing trip for dinosaurs in the arctic and meet numerous characters from adventure novels and pulps, as a man unsure of his identity awakens to discover he has a job to do, if he only knew what it was and who he was. Cave men. Secret lairs. The strange group who rule the world, and She Who Must Be Obeyed, all come together in a rollicking adventure on an icy lake that contains an unexpected secret.

Visit the old West and be at the famous fight of Adobe Walls with Nat Love and his friend Black Hat Jack. Trapped in a adobe hut, a nest of crusty buffalo hunters battle angry Comanches who want to drive the hunters off their land, and make sure they don't come back.  Be witness to the epic battle that occurred there. Dark, funny, adventurous, with bad language.

Visit an island graveyard for super criminals. It's just across the bay from a secret prison for those criminals, as well as deadly monsters. One of the executed villains, an executed creature made of will and mud,  is about to be buried on the island. But not everything dead stays dead, and when it awakens, it definitely gets up on the wrong side of the grave.

Find out the true story of the Ape Man, as told by his Australopithecus brother, as they venture from their hidden jungleworld of dinosaurs, to the modern world of an alternate universe New York where Zeppelins sail the skies and movies are still made on film. Find out how the Ape Man's falls for The Woman, and how a venture into film fails dramatically, ends with death and a humiliating act that no one wants to name. Watch as the primitive falls from grace, and the New World offers temptations, disappoints, and some hard-core adventure.

Out in the Old West there are tons of myths and legends, and sometimes those legends just might be true. A young bartender named Rabbit, teams up with a beautiful sawmill worker, Sally Bleedhead, and sets out to lead some of the nastiest villains in existence to a hidden valley, as well as stolen gold, and a quest to fill sixty-eight barrels with a strange treasure that will reveal the deadly secrets of the lost valley.

Limited: 2500 numbered hardcover copies, signed by the author

From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):

“These five delightful novellas from Lansdale (More Better Deals) demonstrate a playful willingness to shift moods from tragic to boisterous and back again… A master of the genre mashup, Lansdale convincingly slips into a variety of laid-back, down-home personae. Readers with a taste for cheerful butchery will revel in these free-spirited yarns.”

From Locus:

“Lastly, ‘Sixty-eight Barrels on Treasure Lake’, a new novella, closes the collection. While everything else here is full of science fiction, pulp, and horror mayhem, this is perhaps the perfect closer because it shows Lansdale not only still has it but is in fact still getting better. This novella follows a young boy who inherits a mining town saloon when his father dies. Lost in the aftermath, he sets out to look for gold in the company of a beautiful young lady and some dangerous bank robbers. In typical Lansdale fashion, the pacing is great and the humor is as dark as it is effective. This line is a perfect example: ‘The rest of the night I was as nervous as a female goat in a miner’s hut.’ 

Fishing for Dinosaurs is a must for Lansdale fans, and not only because it contains some great previous work and a new novella. While those make this a must-read, this edition also has introductions by Robin Hobb, Poppy Z. Brite, Richard Chizmar, David J. Schow, and Norman Partridge. Fans will love to have so many great stories collected in a single tome, and those who are new to Lansdale’s world have here a perfect introduction to his wild range and unique voice.”


Table of Contents:

Introduction: “Fishing for Stories” by Joe R. Lansdale

Introduction  “What Joe Lansdale Means to Me” by Robin Hobb

  • Black Hat Jack

Introduction: “On Lost Worlds” by Poppy Z. Brite

  • Fishing for Dinosaurs

Introduction: “I Should’ve Known Better” by Richard Chizmar

  • The Ape Man’s Brother

Introduction: “The Yarning” by David J. Schow

  • Prisoner 489

Introduction: “Harryhausen, Houdini, and Hisownself” by Norman Partridge

  • Sixty-Eight Barrels on Treasure Lake

Leonard Walks into a Bar
Joe R. Lansdale


Leonard Pine walked into the bar and looked around for his cousin, Jay. His Uncle Chester had sent him over to check on him. Jay Pine was a distant cousin, twice removed or some such, but his Uncle cared about him, and asked him to go over and see how things were, as word from a friend was Jay wasn’t doing so good.

Jay was a hair slow, and he didn’t always understand correctly. Worse, he was a drunk. He used to have his mother to look after him, but she died and once Jay got his freedom and a job on the town garbage trucks, he wasn’t listening to anyone anymore, and if there was someone out there that needed to listen, it was Jay. He usually spent his weekly pay on drink, and rumor was tonight wasn’t any different. Rumor was correct.

Leonard saw Jay standing at the end of the bar. The place was packed with black men and a couple of black women who were hustling drinks. In this bar everyone was a hustler.

There was a man at the end of the bar. Leonard knew him. Trevor Pine. He too was a distant cousin. Leonard liked the idea he was distant, and if he could have wished it so, he’d have wished him even farther away.

The place wasn’t full dark, and you could see alright after a moment or two, but the light was dusty and smoky and there were red and blue neon, curlicue lights around the big mirror behind the long bar and it made those sitting on stools in front of it look color striped. The air was warm and smelled of alcohol and cigarette smoke. The smoke made Leonard’s eyes water.

A couple of placards on the wall next to the mirror behind the bar had advice about not asking for credit and how all bar bills were to be paid in cash. There was also a calendar that had nineteen seventy-four in bold red letters at the top. A big white clock with black hands hung above the mirror and it was faintly colored by the neon. There was a small wooden picture frame without a glass next to the clock, and the frame had nothing in it. Leonard remembered there used to be a dollar in it; the first the bar had earned, but now it was gone. Times got hard from time to time.

The others at the bar all had their heads turned toward Trevor and Jay and a man next to Trevor was laughing. Trevor was saying, “Now, you want me to buy you a drink, Jaybird, you little rummy, you got to say it right. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did Peter Piper pick.”

Jay, a lanky young man who was already on his way to premature aging, gave it a try. “Peder Piber pigged a peg of piggled pebbers…” 

“No, goddamnit,” Trevor said. “Get the sock out of your mouth. Get it right, I’ll give you a drink.”

Trevor was pouring a bit of whisky into the ash tray in front of him. A few cigarette butts were floating in it like drowning victims.

“There you are, it’s waiting on you when you say it right.”

Leonard walked over to the end of the bar with spilled beer sticking to the bottoms of his cowboy boots, making a sound like someone tearing duct tape of Naugahyde, and said, “That’s all right, Jay, you don’t have to do that.”

“Well, Leonard Pine, as I live and breathe,” Trevor said swiveling on his stool. “You still sucking dicks?”

“Every chance I get. You still eating shit? 

“You know what? I don’t have to put up with a queer talking that way to me.”

“You might.”

“He’s a queer?” the man sitting on stool next to Trevor said.

“Does a dog lick its own ass?” Trevor said.

“Now that’s something,” said the man. He was a tough looking guy, short and stout and black as obsidian with neon light making the sweat on his face shine blue and red. “He don’t look like a queer.”

“I’m in disguise,” Leonard said.

“I ought to knock your queer self on your butt,” the man said and looked over his shoulder to smile at the young man on his left, looking for a responsive audience. The young man didn’t respond, just drank his beer.

“Way I figure,” Leonard said looking at the man, “Trevor is going to take a beating pretty sure. Are you trying to tell me you need one too?”

“Got to figure a pansy can’t be too tough,” said the man. He laughed in Trevor’s direction this time.

“No doubt you could take him,” Trevor said.

“I can handle a queer, you can be sure of that.”

Leonard popped the man in the mouth with a left jab so hard the man stood up off the stool, then fell back over it, hitting the man next to him with his feet as they flew up.

The young man stood up off his stool.

“You got a problem?” Leonard asked.

“Just him falling on me,” said the young man. “I don’t care who sucks dick or eats shit.”

The young man left the bar. A chocolate brown woman who looked like ice cream scoops stacked on top of one another then shoved into a dress, said, “Damn.”

Trevor was watching Leonard, and Leonard was watching him in the mirror.

“Pretty lucky hit,” Trevor said.

“I get lucky a lot,” Leonard said, and turned so he was facing Trevor. Jay was standing at the end of the bar eyeing the whisky in the ashtray. 

“Don’t do it,” Leonard said to Jay. Jay placed both hands on the end of the bar and took a deep breath. He swayed a little.

“He wants it,” Trevor said. “He’s already had drinks out of it. He got a couple things I asked him right.”

“Digent hurd me none,” Jay said.

“Yeah it did,” Leonard said.

“He’s all right,” Trevor said.

“I say he isn’t.”

“Who are you to say shit to anyone, cocksucker.”

“Want to find out who I am?” 

“I might.”

“Anytime you feel you got the nuts for it, come and get you some.”

“I wand a drank” Jay said.

“No, you don’t,” Leonard said.

“Ah, hell,” Trevor said. “Let him have it. He gets funny when he’s drunk.”

“I wand one,” Jay said.

“I tell you, you don’t. Go over there and sit in that chair by the wall, Jay.”

Jay studied Leonard for a moment, then goofy-stepped over to the chair and sat as if he had been dropped into the chair by airplane. “I coulda had nuther drink.”

“Watch him, Jay” Trevor said. “Gets you outside, he’ll hold you down and suck your dick.”

Leonard said, “You’re all kinds of half-wit, aren’t you?”

“I thought it was pretty funny.”

“Let me ask you something, Trevor,” Leonard said. “You say you been giving Jay drinks out of that ash tray.”

“He likes it okay.”

“He’s a drunk. “Drunk enough, he likes anything. Don’t do it anymore. Ever.”

“You gonna monitor him rest of your life.”

“I thought I might give you some instructions about not doing it.”

“Y’all take it outside,” the bartender said. He’d been on the far end, and now he came down the back of the bar carrying a ball bat. He was a big man with a bald head and a hair lip.

The chocolate double-dip woman at the bar said, “That ain’t good.”

“Butch, you know me,” Leonard said. “I’m not in the mood. Put the ball bat up. It’ll fit behind the counter easier than it’ll fit up your ass.”

“I’m just saying,” Butch said. “I don’t want anything in here broke. Ain’t no need to talk to me like that.”

“A need can arise,” Leonard said.

“That’s true,” Butch said, and went back down the length of the bar and put the bat under it.

“Hell, Butch, what’d you do that for? He ain’t so tough,” Trevor said.

“Viewpoints on that have been discussed,” Butch said. “Me, I’ve seen him when he’s riled.”

“Have you now,” Trevor said.


“Shit,” said the woman who had spoken before. “This ain’t good.”

She didn’t move her elbows off the bar, though. Her fingers were wrapped around a glass of beer and she looked into as if she had just discovered a fly doing the back stroke.

“Step outside, Trevor? Save Butch some glass?”

Trevor’s mouth moved from side to side, like he was chewing consequences. “I was joshing.”

“I wasn’t.”

“No call for it, now.”

“You wanted it, now you don’t. You just want to pick on a drunk cause he won’t’ fight back. You’re a coward.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Ah, Leonard,” Jay said from his chair. “I jus wond a shod of som’in, a beer ma’be.”

“Go get in the car. It’s at the curb. Doors are open. Go out get in it, now.”

Jay pouched his mouth and wrinkled his forehead as if he might be thinking about an argument, but he got up and made drunk steps toward the door. “Just wanded one mo beer. Had that Pedder pibber bout down.”

“Sure, you did,” Leonard said.

Jay went out of the bar. Leonard turned and looked at Trevor. Looked at him real hard. Trevor’s face changed.

“Now you take it easy, Leonard,” Trevor said.


Leonard started to leave. Trevor came off the barstool with his right arm pulled back but Leonard was watching him out of the corner of his eye, looking at him in the mirror.

Leonard turned quickly and smoothly and hit Trevor with a left hook under the right ear before Trevor could let go of his punch. The blow sounded like a truck had smashed into a brick wall. It caused Trevor to sit back down on his stool, bend over and breathe hard.

The woman said, “Shit on a duck. That’s some ammunition, right there.”

She wasn’t looking in her beer anymore. She was looking at Leonard and Trevor.

“Thought you might try something like that,” Leonard said to Trevor, as if he might actually be listening.

Trevor didn’t say anything. He was still bent over, trying to decide if he was home or at the movies and wondering where in the pasture he had parked his purple cow.

Everyone was looking at them. No one had their hands in their pockets. No guns. Nothing sharp. The ball bat stayed under the counter. No friends of Trevor.

When Leonard got to the far end of the bar, he said, “Butch, Jay comes back in here, you call me.”

“Who do you think called your uncle?”

“Okay, then.”

Trevor fell off the bar stool and lay on the floor with his knees pulled up. One foot shook a little then went still. Pee wet the front of Trevor’s pants and the cigarette smoke and liquor stink was cut with the smell of ammonia.

“He’s fucked as a dead donkey,” the double-dip woman said. She was leaning out from her stool and looking at Trevor on the floor. She had her beer in her hand and sipped. “Dead donkey would look better.”

Leonard left out of there and found Jay asleep in the backseat of the car sucking his thumb.


Black Hat Jack

Black Hat Jack and me had been riding at night, trying to take in the cooler weather, avoid the sunlight, but mostly avoid being seen. That was almost queered when Jack said he smelled Comanche. I had known Jack a while now, and I had learned that when he said he could smell a bear, a buffalo, a Comanche, or a ground hog fart, then he most likely could.

We got down off our horses, bit their ears and pulled at their necks and they lay down for us. It was a pretty bright night, and that fretted me some, I assure you. Them horses, some fairly tall grass, and tumble weed and some Texas dirt, was about all that was between us and them. I took off my hat and tossed it aside so as to get smaller.

They wasn’t right on us, maybe twenty-five feet away, and we could see them good, crossing in the moonlight. Must have been twenty of them. More than enough to ride down on us and lose a few, but still take us and do what they like to do to them that cross their lands. Story was they ran the Apache pretty much out of Texas, and let me tell you, if there’s someone that can run an Apache, you best take heed of them.

So there we was lying down behind them horses, our teeth clamped on a horse ear, which is not tasty at all, though horses themselves are pretty good to eat if you cook them right. The horse I had on the ground was a fellow I called Satan. He wasn’t the original horse I called Satan, as I had to eat him, (which is what made me an expert on the eating of horse) but this one was pretty good, black as the one I had before, and about of the same spirit, though less mischievous. He would even come when I whistled. If he was in the mood.



Fishing for Dinosaurs

When I climbed out from under the bridge that morning, it was raining hard and a cold wind was blowing and I guess that’s what turned me, that and the fact my coat was as thin as cheese cloth and I was so hungry I felt like my backbone was trying to gnaw its way to my navel. Being wet, cold, and hungry, as well as homeless, can affect a man’s judgment in all manner of ways. It damn sure affected mine.

I thought about waiting for the rain to stop, but then decided the rain was what I needed. It was a Sunday morning, and if I was going to break into a house or building to find warmth, and mercy help me, something to steal and sell at a pawn shop, it was as good a time and as good a cover as any.


The Ape Man's Brother

I am not a chimpanzee. I am not an ape. The guy who played me in the movie was an ape.

It’s true. I did love that woman, that beautiful, blonde woman, and it was not a platonic love. It was much more than that. And in line with that, here’s something I want to correct.

Because I’m not a chimpanzee, and am more accurately somewhere closer to an Australopithecus with a larger brain—which, of course makes me neither ape nor modern man, nor actually Australopithecus, but a humanoid off-shoot—what happened between the lady and myself was not technically bestiality, no matter what the tabloids say. But there was a crime. It was the breaking of the bond of brotherhood, and I regret it from the bottom of my heart.

Now the true events can be told, because other than myself, everyone involved with the sordid affair is now dead or missing, except that goddamn chimpanzee. He’s got the constitution of a redwood tree. Then again it’s not his fault. He was an actor. He was never actually involved, but the way he’s treated, living in a retirement home for animals of the cinema, photos and articles popping up about him on his birthday every year, his fuzzy face covered in birthday cake, you’d think he’d at least have been President for a term.

Me, I was the real thing, and my raggedy ass has been left to its own devices. So, I thank you for coming to me to get the real story, and I will tell it true without dropping a stitch on the real lowdown. 


Prisoner 489

Bernard thought his small island was beautiful, though it served an ugly purpose. A necessary service perhaps, but ugly just the same.

The island across the way was larger and less beautiful. It didn’t have the trees of the smaller one, and there were the great and imposing walls of the prison, one side visible from the lesser island’s small but sturdy two- story sanctuary made of shell and rock and shipped-in materials. It was wide and high with seven large rooms and plenty of garage space for a bulldozer, front-end loader, and a workshop, all of those positioned at the center of the building in the wide dog run that could be sealed on both ends by large metal doors with strong locks, as if theft was a problem.

This building, which they called Island Keep, had rows of windows on all sides, and the windows could be opened wide to let in the cool sea breeze. There were trees around the building, and they were tall and gave shadow to the structure during the days when the sun was high and the air was hot. At night they wrapped the place in moon-shadows, and sometimes Bernard would sit at the open window in his bedroom and take in their mystery. There was a gap in the trees, and between them Bernard could see the big island and the walls of the prison. At night the lights of the prison were savagely bright. The prison could be seen clearly from along the shoreline, which was a white sand beach that curved halfway around the island. You could also see the prison clearly from the dock that stuck out in the water. The dock was built of sound, black-painted wood that creaked and moved in high winds and high seas, but held firm.

On all other sides of the small island, once you made your way through the trees that bordered it and that were slightly bent from frequent night winds, all you could see was the sea. On one side was a straight-down wall of rock that ended in jagged pokes of rock and smooth, round boulders, shiny white and large like the backs of partially submerged hippos. They called that part of the little island The Big Drop. It was rumored an earlier caretaker, fed up with isolation and a lack of black tea, his favorite, had thrown himself off the Big Drop and had exploded like a watermelon on the rocks below. Bernard, when he stood on the edge of the Big Drop and looked over, could understand the urge to leap. It was like a siren call. He had experienced it many years before in a car, when on a near whim he nearly weaved his machine right into the path of an oncoming semi. It wasn’t something he had thought about at all, but watching those trucks come toward him he thought of it suddenly, felt his hands tighten on the wheel as if he might do it. Sometimes he wished he had. There were times when he felt that way looking over the edge of The Big Drop.


Sixty-Eight Barrels on Treasure Lake


You want to know how I ended up here?

Well, some of you won’t believe it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Gather up close and listen tight. The beers are on me.


Most nights at the saloon you’d spend a lot of time wiping up messes with a dirty rag that smelled like beer, blood, whisky and sweat, and maybe the stink of fear, because some nasty things could happen in there. I’ve seen it. Everything from puking to peeing to shitting, to fornication and murder. Sometimes all of it happened in the same night.

This sort of nightly business, except on Sunday, might give you reason to believe I was looking for a way out of my situation when all this happened, and you have all the reason in the world to believe you are right. Thing was, I was still ciphering on that little problem without much progress, when the solution, such as it was, came along.

Preacher was part of it, but not all of it. He’d been a preacher in town for I guess nigh on four or five months before he took to coming in to sit at a table alone and drink. He always wore black pants and a black dress coat, but was changeable in color when it came to hats. Mostly, though, he wore black.

He would always sit at a little table in the corner with his back to the wall and a loaded hog leg on the table. He might preach about how to get to heaven on Sunday, but most any day he was willing to send you to hell.

Let me give you an example. There was a little fellow with a fiddle in the saloon one night, and he was playing, mostly sawing at the strings in a way that sounded like someone mistreating a cat with a pair of plyers.

There was a fat man there too, wearing ragged clothes and a new black hat. He was sitting at a table playing cards, and that screeching moved him. He jumped up so fast it knocked over the chair he’d been sitting in. He started dancing, pounding his boots on the floor, hopping about in a way that made people spread out and pull tables and chairs aside to give him room.

The crowd started hollering and hooting and clapping and so on, and that was like putting dry wood on a hot fire. It really encouraged the fat man. He twirled around and slapped his knee, stood up on the toes of his boots, and hopped.

He was doing a nice little two step at the same time he took a gander at Preacher sitting there sipping his drink, that hog leg in front of him. The fat man decided he needed him as a dance partner.

Preacher didn’t want to dance, and one thing led to another, the fat man pulling on Preacher to prance about with him. Preacher told him to stop, but the fat man wasn’t having it. Every eye was on him now, and he liked being the center of attention. You could tell that by the way he was grinning.

More Preacher resisted, the more the fat man tugged on the preacher’s coat.

The fiddle player was really sawing by then. I think there might have been a tune hidden in that noise somewhere, but I wasn’t the one to find it, not even with a posse.

One sleeve tug too many from the fat man caused Preacher to snatch up that hog leg and fire. A bullet went through the fat man’s head and came out the back of it along with a mess of blood and brains, and down he went. He hit the floor so hard tables and chairs jumped.

It wasn’t all bad. Same bullet went through the fat man’s head hit the fiddle and busted it, and that was the end of that nonsense.

As for the fat man’s body, no one in the saloon claimed it, and it was put outside overnight, and what didn’t get chewed on and eaten by wolves, was picked up the next day in a wagon by a woman and a boy of ten or so. They said they had heard about his demise. They were his wife and son, and they always figured he’d end up this way, on account of his love of drink. They asked how he died, and Daddy, who was the saloon owner, told them. The wife smiled, said, “He did love his dancing.”

Preacher wasn’t ever asked to dance again, and there was always a little more room than was necessary at his table. The extra two chairs there remained unused, except by me. Preacher liked me because I had learned to read and write and had read a half dozen books or so, couple of them twice. I liked a newspaper when I could find it.

Timothy Truman
Joe R. Lansdale
378 pages
United States
Subterranean Press