Nacogdoches boy Joe R. Lansdale is a veteran purveyor of horror and crime fiction, much of it pulpy at best. Still, all that writing has paid off in his latest novel, The Bottoms, which lands firmly in the mainstream-fiction category. Relax, phobe-o-philes—he still delivers a full dose of fear, East Texas-style, but he throws in plenty of literary lagniappe too. In the thirties thirteen-year-old Harry Crane and his kid sister get lost in the Piney Woods. They spot a shadowy follower: Could it be the Goat Man, a local bugaboo? The next horror they glimpse, though, is all too real: a corpse bound with barbed wire. That discovery marks the first in a series of revelations that rocks their scruffy little world. Lansdale applies, retroactively, the serial-killer template so beloved of modern authors, but the small-town, period-piece setting alone redeems The Bottoms. His characters are Polaroid-perfect, and he delicately, confidently depicts the interaction of whites and blacks (one of the many Southern-fried-Gothic elements that suggest To Kill a Mockingbird ). Whether you’re looking for a Serious Novel or a Halloween horrorfest, The Bottoms is so good it’s scary.