The Bottoms

The Bottoms

The narrator of The Bottoms is Harry Collins, an old man obsessively reflecting on certain key experiences of his childhood. In 1933, the year that forms the centerpiece of the narrative, Harry is 11 years old and living with his mother, father, and younger sister on a farm outside of Marvel Creek, Texas, near the Sabine River bottoms. Harry's world changes forever when he discovers the corpse of a young black woman tied to a tree in the forest near his home. The woman, who is eventually identified as a local prostitute, has been murdered, molested, and sexually mutilated. She is also, as Harry will soon discover, the first in a series of similar corpses, all of them the victims of a new, unprecedented sort of monster: a traveling serial killer.


From his privileged position as the son of constable (and farmer and part-time barber) Jacob Collins, Harry watches as the distinctly amateur investigation unfolds. As more bodies -- not all of them "colored" -- surface, the mood of the local residents darkens. Racial tensions -- never far from the surface, even in the best of times -- gradually kindle. When circumstantial evidence implicates an ancient, innocent black man named Mose, the Ku Klux Klan mobilizes, initiating a chilling, graphically described lynching that will occupy a permanent place in Harry Collins's memories. With Mose dead and the threat to local white women presumably put to rest, the residents of Marvel Creek resume their normal lives, only to find that the actual killer remains at large and continues to threaten the safety and stability of the town.


Lansdale uses this protracted murder investigation to open up a window on an insular, poverty-stricken, racially divided community. With humor, precision, and great narrative economy, he evokes the society of Marvel Creek in all its alternating tawdriness and nobility, offering us a varied, absolutely convincing portrait of a world that has receded into history. At the same time, he offers us a richly detailed re-creation of the vibrant, dangerous physical landscapes that were part of that world and have since been buried under the concrete and cement of the industrialized juggernaut of the late 20th century. In Lansdale's hands, the gritty realities of Depression-era Texas are as authentic -- and memorable -- as anything in recent American fiction.

Title:The Bottoms
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780446677929
Format Type:

    The Bottoms Reviews

  • Lori

    A mix of nostalgia for the lost world of his childhood and the toxic racism that was the norm for the time and place. Nobody is going to miss the similarity with To Kill a Mockingbird, but strong enou...

  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    Set in the 1930's this book is told from the viewpoint of an elderly man looking back at a time in his life. Harry grew up in East Texas along the Sabine River area. An area where more is picked up at...

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ “Only the past seems to matter now; only it seems to be alive; only it can support my soul.” I finally got around to reading this ov...

  • Arah-Lynda

    Once again I find myself sitting here scratching my head wondering how in the world can this be the first time I have read Joe R. Lansdale.  In truth I think I may have come across a short story or t...

  • Paul Nelson

    The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale is a rousing atmospheric murder mystery with an abundance and it has to said, more than its fair share of tension and thought provoking issue...

  • Lawyer

    The Bottoms: Joe R. Lansdale's Edgar Award Winning Mystery The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale was chosen as a group read for February, 2016, by members of On the Southern Literary Trail. Special thanks ...

  • Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror

    The works of Joe R. Lansdale have been recommended to me so much in the last 3-4 years. I have a strong affinity for coming-of-age tales so I was told very convincingly by several people that THE BOTT...

  • Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    [9/10]We have no Halloween traditions in Eastern Europe, but since I read so many books published in the US I got into the habit of picking up in October some titles that don't usually migrate to the ...

  • J.K. Grice

    I first discovered Joe Lansdale when I found a discounted hardcover copy of THE BOTTOMS at Half Price Books. This excellent book started my love affair with the works of CHAMPION JOE! If you've never ...

  • Tom Mathews

    Every time I finish a Joe R. Lansdale book I swear that I need to read more of his books. Often life gets in the way, though, and a good deal of time goes by before I pick up another. Having just fini...