Joe Lansdale has reported on Twitter that the wonderful colorful gonzo Neal Barrett Jr has died. He was eighty-five years old. I didn’t have the chance to meet him, or to thank him for his wonderful books and stories, but he wrote two or three of the best books I’ve ever read.
His novel The Hereafter Gang is one of the great novels of the ’90s, a story of love, growing up, crime czars, proctologists, Western outlaws, dog-fighting aviators and trout-fishing Huns. it is a totally essential book. The same could be set for his collection Perpetuity Blues, which unbelievably is fourteen years old now. I remember reading it for review for Locus in 2000 and calling it “the first ‘must buy’ of the new millennium.” If anything I undersold it’s weird, gonzo magnificence. I think this was the last, or one of the last, books edited by Jim Turner and it shows. Every story is wonderful. And finally, and especially if you can’t get Perpetuity Blues, a comprehensive collection of his short fiction was published not long ago. Other Seasonsgives a great overview of the variety of work Barrett did over a long and prolific career.
A person is remembered by their friends. A writer is remembered by his or her readers. I know I’ll be re-reading Neal Barrett for the rest of my life. In fact, now that he’s joined the hereafter gang, it might be time to re-revisit Doug, Sue Jean and the rest of the gang. Vale, and thank you.