Joe R. Lansdale's new collection, The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team, which includes 26 stories, plus an original introduction and story notes, is in stock and shipping!
The wraparound dust jacket art, which highlights the title story, is by SubPress favorite Timothy Truman.
We've pulled short excerpts from five of the tales, to give you an idea of the pleasures within the collection's pages.
The Hungry Snow
Great gouts of blood on the snow. The cracking of ice. The wind so cold.
That’s what he would remember.
In the cold, wet, blowing snow, the Reverend Jedidiah Mercer rode his horse and led his pack mule into the midst of it. It was as if God, the mean dictator for which he worked, had taken the world in hand and filled it with slush and ice and shook it like a petulant child.
When at last the wind shifted, he could see the world again. He was high up in the Rockies. The tips of mountains were coated in snow and the trail he was on was narrow. It was easy enough to traverse when his vision was clear, but as he rounded a precarious curve, the snow dumped again, forcing him to pull his mount and lead his mule close to the side of a rock wall. Only a few feet away to his right was a deep drop-off that fell into a cluster of snow-coated trees, and between the boughs of those trees was a long, cold drop and eventually a hard bottom of solid rock.
The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel
I haven’t mentioned this to anyone because I know how it might sound, having to do with what some might call a ghost. I am not a religious man, but I think there may well be some things we don’t understand beyond this life, though I doubt they have anything to do with the common concepts of heaven and hell.
Some of us may die and merely cease to be, and some of us may remain hung between life and death, caught in a kind of limbo, captured there by intense emotions and events, retaining the dregs of life, but not life as we would want it.
And sometimes those things reach out.
The Skull Collector
There were three of them, but the guy in front of me did most of the talking.
“What I’m thinking here, sweetie, is you aren’t telling us all you know.”
“You’re thinking that, are you?” I said. “That’s where you’re wrong. You do all this, hurt me enough, scare me enough, then I’ll tell you something, but it won’t be the truth. I don’t know the truth. You’re wasting your time, and mine.”
That was a lie. I knew where what they wanted was, but I figured once they knew, I could kiss my ass goodbye.
On the Muddy Banks of the Old Sabine
In these ashes beneath a fine blue sky, you’ll find bones and memories, burned by wasted love. Fine flesh has been transformed by hot licks of flame into ash and scraps of charred flesh. The ashes are buried in a heap near the river’s edge. The summer has been dry and the river has been small. There are blackened bones projecting from the pile, for the wind has picked at the grave and the rain has eroded it, but for the most part, the grave has remained. Inside the grave, the ash has become sticky with mud that has partially dried after being first hot with fire then damp with dew, then baked by the summer sun, dew-licked again each morning, dried again by a new day.
These bones and ashes and spots of flesh are almost the end of the matter, such as an end can be determined.
Here is the beginning.
The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team
The bus ride can be all right, if everyone talks and cuts up, sings the school fight song, and keeps a positive attitude. It keeps your mind off what’s to come. Oh, you don’t want to not think about it at all, or you won’t be ready, you won’t have your grit built up. You need that, but you can’t think about it all the time, or you start to worry too much.
You got to believe all the training and team preparation will carry you through, even if sometimes it doesn’t. I started in Junior High, so I’m an old pro now. This is my last year on the team, and my last event, and if I’m careful, and maybe a little lucky, I’ll graduate and move on. It’s all about the survivors.