Join me, Sadie Hartmann, aka “Mother Horror”, each month as I take a deep dive into the back catalog of PseudoPod episodes. My first choice is a recommendation from the PseudoPod “About” page: THE PIT by Joe R. Lansdale.
I chose this episode for 3 reasons:
- Joe Lansdale.
- The description boasts that Lansdale describes this story as “Alice in Wonderland meets Southern Gothic”
- I was hoping the narrator would have a ‘Cigarette and Whisky’ flavored Southern drawl, and I was not disappointed.
THE PIT is a story about a hole in the ground where men (and animals) are forced to fight to the death. At the bottom of the pit, there is every unimaginable horror- bodily fluids of all kinds from past battles, human remains, vermin, and sharpened poles with the skewered carcasses of all the losers. It’s very “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”
Lansdale doesn’t waste any time leading his audience into the story gently. We are dropped head first into this gonzo wasteland of toxic masculinity gone completely off the rails. A character-driven story, every person is described in technicolor details. The PseudoPod narrator, John Bell, assigns each character their own voice making Lansdale’s colorful dialog pop. It sounded like there were multiple actors reading the various parts; very entertaining.
“I’m gonna tear you apart like a gingerbread man.” George growled.
There’s a ring leader of this circus named The Preacher. A symbol of the empty-headed, corrupt, hypocritical, leadership of religiosity. The blind leading the blind. Lansdale’s use of The Preacher’s relationship with his snake, Sapphire, is laugh out loud funny. Again, the narrator’s voice brings the story to life.
There are worshippers here at The Pit; the spectators; symbolic of the worst of us. Racist, homophobic, drunk with bllood lust. It’s weird to imagine anyone standing by watching something as unjust and inhumane as what goes on in The Pit but I am reminded of high school fights. Students standing around chanting FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT while two people throw punches. And more recently, people filming violence with their cell phones.
Then we have the fighters, George and Harry. We spend time with these two men before they battle one another, during the fight, and afterwards. The most exposition is used on these two very different men while they throttle the life out of each other. Some moments are hysterical while other moments made me cringe. It also made me sad. I invested in them emotionally, even though I didn’t want to–indelible marks on your reader’s soul that will never really go away. The danger of investing in Lansdale’s characters.
Sensitive readers will want to know The Pit is full of horrors. Real horrors.
Animal cruelty (I skipped over the dog fight), systemic racism (some of the characters use racial slurs, the N word, and there are offensive stereotypes), domestic violence, you name it–there’s something in here for every reader to be offended by-but this is the beauty of horror–we can choose to wrestle these demons or shut them down. Either way, they are there. They exist. We can allow ourselves the experience of staring down the horrors or putting them back on the page where they can’t hurt us–neither action is wrong. THE PIT is just one of many Joe R. Lansdale stories out there in the universe. I hope to someday enjoy them all.
About the Authors
Sadie Hartmann is known as Mother Horror on social media. She writes horror fiction reviews and other content for Cemetery Dance and SCREAM Magazine as well as Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram and other social media platforms & publications.
JOE R. LANSDALE has written over thirty books, and numerous short stories. He has won a multitude of awards, including the Edgar for his novel THE BOTTOMS, and his novella BUBBA HO-TEP was made into the popular film starring Bruce Campbell. His current book is EDGE OF DARK WATER, and forthcoming in September is THE THICKET, both from Mulholland Books. Joe blogs here and you can also follow him on Facebook.