Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)

Sunset and Sawdust

Best Seller
Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale
Paperback $13.95
Jan 04, 2005 | ISBN 9780375719226

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (3) +
  • Jan 04, 2005 | ISBN 9780375719226

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307428028

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Product Details


“[Sunset and Sawdust is] filled with turns and twists, nastiness, broad humor, moments of grace. . . . Lansdale is a storyteller in the great American tradition.” –The Boston Globe

“A wonderfully nasty piece of work [that] inspires I-can’t-believe-this laughter. . . . Very entertaining.” –Newsday

The opening . . . will grab unsuspecting readers by the lapels and pull them right in. . . . Lansdale’s prose–laconic and sarcastic–is so thick with slang and regional accent that it’s as tasty as a well-cured piece of beef jerky." —The Denver Post

"Lansdale is an exceptional storyteller . . . readers will feel the Texas heat and hear the story in the author’s unique East Texas drawl. The vivid characterization will make readers cheer for the protagonist and boo the villain." —Rocky Mountain News

“Delivers the unexpected and bizarre that his fans have come to expect. . . . The narrative is entertaining, but Lansdale’s patently unvarnished storytelling–backwoods and brash all at once–is the real reason to crack this cover.” —Texas Monthly

"Funny, bloody and bizarre. . . . Another five-star doozy of a tale from an immensely talented and original storyteller." —The Flint Journal

“Sunset Jones is the kind of woman that men who drink in East Texas bars would call a ‘pistol.’ As a tornado rips through the sawmill camp town of Rapture, in the rousing opening scene of Joe R. Lansdale’s historical barnburner Sunset and Sawdust, Sunset finally puts a stop to her husband Pete’s bloody beatings. . . . Soon Sunset has her own posse, including a wonderful dog whose abject adoration of the fiery gunslinger pretty much sums up this reader’s feelings.” —The New York Times Book Review

"A first-rate whodunnit. . . . [Lansdale] knows how to tell a story." —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Sly, easy-paced and so comfortable in its setting that it becomes almost seductive. This is what good storytelling is all about.” —Arizona Republic

"Lansdale can catch that meandering East Texas twang in his writing, but just as quickly he can tighten the plot and our stomachs with a turn of phrase. . . . Lansdale gives us both atmosphere and action." —Winston-Salem Journal

"Surrealistic. . . . Unpredictable. . . . A darker kind of storytelling." —Pittsburg Tribune-Review

Author Q&A

A conversation with Joe Lansdale

Q: You’ve written more than a dozen books and won a heap of awards for mystery-writing.  How does Sunset and Sawdust further the themes in your fiction?

A: I suppose there are themes in my fiction. Well, I know there are, and they are the engine that drives the story. Self-reliance, accepting responsibility for your actions, tolerance, and a rabid hatred of racism from any angle or group. I’m not fond of religious bullies either. Religion is up to the individual, but wielding it like a cutlass doesn’t appeal to me. All of these things are in the majority of my books, and Sunset and Sawdust expresses most of them. I hope, of course, that it’s a fun read, a good fast-paced crime book as well. I grew up on both pulp and literature, and I think the best novels are a marriage of these elements.

In a number of my books, there’s a hint of folklore and "modern" mythology. I think we make our own mythologies as we live, and I think we give the past a kind of mythology. I tried to do that with Sunset and Sawdust. The aforementioned themes meet a historical novel meet folklore and myth and spit out a crime novel of sorts. There are some who would argue the novel is not a crime novel. And if they mean in the purely traditional manner it is not a crime novel, they’re right.

Q: SUNSET AND SAWDUST features a female protagonist who takes over as the constable of a small town in East Texas.  What inspired you to put this character, Sunset Jones, at the center of the story and to put the law in her hands?

A: Actually, there was a woman who became sheriff here in Nacogdoches in the thirties, and that stuck in my head. I believe her husband died and she took over, but wanting the novel to have a bit more drama, I made Sunset’s husband a not-so-good guy, and, of course, Sunset is responsible for his death.

Q: You write vividly about the details and dynamics of East Texas during the Great Depression.  Did you do extensive research before writing the novel, or have you learned about Depression-era Texas from family and neighbors who lived through it?

A: I did some research, but my father and mother grew up during the Great Depression. I grew up hearing all about it. I had many relatives who lived through the Depression. I soaked up all their stories. I also read a number of novels written during that era.

Also, we were poor when I was growing up, though probably no worse off than most around us, better off than many, so I’m not sure East Texas in the fifties was all that different. Well, it wasn’t as bad as the Depression, but it was still a pretty simple way to live.

Q: There are several unlikely alliances that develop between characters in the course of this novel–across lines of race and gender that were not usually crossed in this period.  Do you find that small towns and hard times offer a writer more freedom?

A: I do find that small towns and hard times make for unlikely alliances. I saw it happen when I was growing up. And there are always people ahead of where the culture is. And there’s this: if they don’t make those alliances for themselves, I should.

Q: Your novels are full of suspense as well as murder-and-mayhem action sequences.  Do you chart the plots before you write? 

A: I don’t plot them or chart them. I usually have a character and an opening scene. Maybe I’ll have a couple of scenes I want to see happen in my head, and the story occurs as I go. I like to be as surprised as the reader.

Q: Does your martial arts training help keep your action sequences fresh?

A: The martial arts help in many ways. Mostly they help me focus and give me discipline and confidence. Those are things you have to keep to the fore when you you’re on a long haul with a novel. And this one took a little longer than usual. I don’t know why, but it did.

Q: The characters in SUNSET AND SAWDUST are often consumed by violence and sex, but you render their experiences in hilarious fashion.  How did you learn to tell such a rollicking story? 

A: I think you have to give these kind of things some humor–at least most of the time, if not all of the time. I also like humor in books, and I see a lot of life with humor. Not always at the moment, but in looking back. I think darkness and humor are really just two sides of a double-edge sword. Twain said something about humor being part of misery, that there was no humor in heaven.

Q: Sunset Jones is one hell of a survivor.  Will Sunset recur as a character in your forthcoming books?

A: It’s possible. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I find that characters I’ve written about turn up again now and then. In fact, McBride who appears in this novel, appeared in a novella I wrote a few years back called The Big Blow.

Q: Have any of your stories or novels been adapted by filmmakers?

A: Numerous stories and books of mine have been optioned for film, as well as screenplays I’ve written. Only one story, a kind of cult movie, Bubba Hotep, has been filmed. It’s done very well, in fact. Directed by Don Coscarelli, the film starred Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. It won a number of awards.

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates about Joe R. Lansdale
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking SIGN UP, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy. You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top