Dead Trees: Joe Bob Goes to the Bookstore

Joe Bob Briggs
Joe Bob Briggs

I first saw Joe Bob Briggs when he was on The Movie Channel. This was in 1986, before he even had his own weekly show on the network. My initial impression was something like, “Who is this chicken-fried cornball?” I was not much of a fan of redneck humor.

I didn’t give JBB a chance until I stayed up late one Friday to watch David Cronenberg’s The Brood. It was on The Movie Channel, and at first I was disappointed to see that hillbilly hayseed doing an introduction. I watched, not wishing to miss the opening credits of The Brood. I was taken aback when Joe Bob said some fairly astute things about David Cronenberg. He obviously wasn’t another braindead movie host going through the paces.

You couldn’t yet call me a fan, but I kept Joe Bob in the back of my mind. My next encounter with Joe Bob Briggs was in WaldenBooks. A book’s cover and title caught my eye: Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In. I was interested enough to pick it up. Then I was convinced to buy it when I saw that none other than Stephen King had written the Intro. I bought anything with King’s name on it in those days.

Cover of Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-InTo say that I loved Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In would be a massive understatement. I always loved drive-in theaters, and I always loved horror and exploitation movies. I raced through the book and I have read it numerous times in the ensuing years.

Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In is a wondrous trip back to the last gasp of the drive-in exploitation era—the period just before home video became affordable to most homes. A time when decidedly unsafe movies were released and shown on the biggest screens the planet has ever known.

Joe Bob lovingly takes readers back to visit movies like The Evil Dead, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, Deathstalker, Visiting Hours, The Last American Virgin, Basket Case, and so many more.

But that’s not all! Not by a long shot. Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In is peppered with illustrious and probably highly exaggerated accounts of the author’s love life and his unusual lifestyle, all the while taking on censors and protest groups along the way. Social Justice Warriors would swallow their tongues in apoplectic furor, but those with senses of humor will be delighted.

There’s also a history of the drive-in by JBB, and Stephen King’s admiring introduction.

Cover of Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-InJoe Bob Goes to the Drive-In was followed a few years later by Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In. The sequel features an introduction by…Wayne Newton.

The drive-in, as I knew it, was dying by the time Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In was published. Home video took a big chunk out of the industry. Cable TV became more enticing, with increased channels and more choices. I loved videocassettes and cable, but nothing could match watching exploitation films under the majestic night sky. Yes, drive-ins are still around, and they appear to be on the verge of a big comeback, but they can never be what they once were.

I can think of no better way to re-live those days than with these uproarious books.

My copies of both books are well-read and worn. They have become valuable collector’s items. Joe Bob himself has regained his popularity with a new show on Shudder, and his traveling extravaganza, How Rednecks Saved Hollywood. If you have not seen his live show, do not pass up an opportunity to do so. You will be amazed.

Now would be a perfect time to re-release these books. I always dreamed about starting up my own publishing company, and if I did so my dream project would be to put both of these books out in a nice omnibus hardcover edition. I have no doubt they would be big sellers.

Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of TerrorSir Graves Ghastly PresentsThe Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon LoverThe Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. Cemetery Dance recently released his collection He Who Types Between the Rows: A Decade of Horror Drive-In. He can be reached at horrordrivein@yandex.com, and at www.horrordrive-in.com.

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