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Excerpt from Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Paradise Sky

by Joe R. Lansdale

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale X
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2015, 416 pages
    Sep 2017, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick
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Print Excerpt

Chapter 1

Now, in the living of my life, I've killed deadly men and dangerous animals and made love to four Chinese women, all of them on the same night and in the same wagon bed, and one of them with a wooden leg, which made things a mite difficult from time to time. I even ate some of a dead fellow once when I was crossing the plains, though I want to rush right in here and make it clear I didn't know him all that well, and we damn sure wasn't kinfolks, and it all come about by a misunderstanding.

Another thing I did was won me a shooting contest up Deadwood way against some pretty damn fine shooters, all of them white boys, and me as shiny black as obsidian rock. There was some dime novels written about me as well, though there are some that argue with that and say I've merely latched onto the name Deadwood Dick, the Dark Rider of the Plains, as a way of giving myself a higher standing in life, and that those stories wasn't based on me at all. That isn't true, though the stories those writers wrote about me in those books was mostly damn lies, and I plan to set that record straight from one end to the other, and in due time. But I'm not starting where the story starts. I'm jumping ahead and wetting down the fire before it's been lit.

I think this is where it begins. I heard if you went out west and joined up with the colored soldiers they'd pay you in real Yankee dollars, thirteen of them a month, feed and clothe you, and give you a horse to ride. This was in the back of my mind when my adventure started. It was something that had been lying there like a hound in the sun that didn't want to get up. But on this day I'm talking about, suddenly some fire got in that dog's bones. It was due to what I heard a man once call the vagaries of life that it come to sound like a right smart idea and a good career choice. You see, I got invited to a lynching.

It wasn't that I had been asked to hold the rope or sing a little spiritual. I was the guest of honor on this one. They was planning to stretch my neck like a goozle-wrung chicken at Sunday dinner.

At the time of these goings-on, I wasn't but twenty years old. Thing I'd done was nothing on purpose. I had gone to town for Pa, to get some flour and such, and it was about a five-mile walk. I wasn't looking forward to carrying a tow sack of flour and corn and other goods back that five miles, but that was how things was. We only had one horse, and Pa was using it to plow the cornfield. That meant I had to walk.

The trip there was all right, as the sack was empty and without real weight, and the day was nice, the sun heating things up, birds singing in the trees, happy as if they had good sense. I whistled most of the way there. It was a good thing wasn't anyone with me, because I'm not much of a whistler. But there I was, on a nice morning, feeling pretty good about things, even if I was going to have to deal with white people—Civil War veterans, mostly. Folks who wanted to talk about the war all the time and to anyone come along. Wanted to tell how if good ole Robert E. Lee had just done a little of this instead of a little of that, we niggers would still know our place down on the farm, and when we didn't know it, whippings was needed now and then just to keep us straight cause our minds was like a child's mind. According to them, if left to ourselves, we would have been wandering around aimless, not knowing how to feed and clothe ourselves and humping the livestock.

On this day I wasn't thinking much on that kind of thing, though. I was just enjoying myself, walking along, going to Wilkes Mercantile and General Store and Emporium to buy some things with what little money Pa had on hand from selling taters and maters last year. He had clung to that money tight as a crow to something shiny, but finally some of the staples had run low, and I was going to have to buy enough of those to last us until he brought in the next crop, all of it growed on land we owned free and clear, which for colored was as rare as a ride down Main Street in a buggy with fringe on top and white people standing on either side of the street waving and cheering.

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Excerpted from the book Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale. Reprinted with permission of Mulholland Books. All rights reserved.

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