Flaming Zeppelins: The Adventures of Ned the Seal

Joe R. Lansdale

What do the disembodied head of Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Frankenstein, the Tin Man, Captain Nemo, and Ned the Seal have in common? Find out as they embark upon a spectacular set of nonstop steampunk adventures as only Lansdale, the high-priest of Texan weirdness, could tell.


Flaming Zeppelins: The Adventures of Ned the Seal

by Joe R. Lansdale

ISBN: 9781616960025

Published: 2010

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks

What do the disembodied head of Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Frankenstein, the Tin Man, Captain Nemo, the Flying Dutchman, and the inestimable Ned the Seal have in common? Find out as they embark upon a spectacular set of nonstop steampunk adventures. For the first time, two epic chronicles, Zeppelins West and Flaming London, inscribed by a courageous young seal on his trusty notepad, are collected together in one volume.

Leap from a flaming zeppelin with the stars of the Wild West Show in a desperate escape from an imperial Japanese enclave. Wash up upon the island of Doctor Moreau, in mortal danger from his unnatural experiments (and ignorant that Dracula approaches by sea). Unite with Jules Verne, Passpartout, and Mark Twain on a desperate voyage to the burning streets of London, which are infested with killer squid from outer space courtesy of  H. G. Wells’s time machine.

It’s a raucous steam-powered locomotive of shoot-’em-up Westerns, dime novels, comic books, and pulp fiction, as only Lansdale, the high-priest of Texan weirdness, could tell.

“A madcap excursion.”
Shelf Awareness

“The comparison to Alan Moore’s great comic series is probably the most apt, both in the form of a collection of historic and literary characters and in the tone of Moore’s delight in the obscene. Lansdale ramps both up to hilarious excess.”
Voyages Extraordinaires

“Lansdale reminds me somewhat of Terry Pratchett, if Pratchett was an irascible cuss with an affection for scatological humour…. If you want your steampunk serious, sombre, or squeaky-clean, stay far away from Lansdale. For myself, he’s a breath of flatulent air in the midst of steampunk taking itself far too seriously.”
Steampunk Scholar

Praise for Zeppelins West

“Irrepressible, irreverent and unpredictable…. Legends of the Old West, plus characters both real and fictional, enliven the shenanigans…. [T]his novel is one big joyride from start to finish.”
Publishers Weekly

 Praise for Flaming London

“Wait a minute! What’s going on here? Only one of the wildest-alternate-worlds, rip-in-space-time, SF-pastiche romps this side of fifties B-movies.”

Joe R. Lansdale is the internationally-bestselling author of over forty novels, including twelve books in the Hap and Leonard mystery series. Many of his cult classics have been adapted for television and film, most infamously Bubba Ho-Tep, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. Lansdale has also written numerous screenplays and graphic novels, including Jonah Hex, the Batman and Superman animated series, and Showtime’s Masters of Horror. He has won ten Edgar Awards for his mysteries, a Comic-Con lifetime achievement award, and has been designated a World Horror Grandmaster. Lansdale, like many of his characters, lives in East Texas.

Praise for Joe R. Lansdale

“A folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace.”
New York Times Book Review

“A terrifically gifted storyteller.”
Washington Post Book Review

“A zest for storytelling and a gimlet eye for detail.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Lansdale is a storyteller in the Texas tradition of outrageousness…but amped up to about 100,000 watts.”
Houston Chronicle

“Lansdale’s been hailed, at varying points in his career, as the new Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner-gone-madder, and the last surviving splatterpunk…sanctified in the blood of the walking Western dead and righteously readable.”
Austin Chronicle

“Like gold standard writers Elmore Leonard and the late Donald Westlake, Joe R. Lansdale is one of the more versatile writers in America.”
Los Angeles Times

“…since I’m not mincing words, let me say that Mr. Lansdale doesn’t mince them either.

That trip from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ (with some interesting stops along the way) is filled with well-wrought characters, black humor, knife-sharp dialogue, and enough violence to make even the most jaded Quentin Tarantino aficionado
sit up and smile.”
Washington Times

“Joe R. Lansdale’s writing swaggers back and forth through a variety of genres, format, and media, blending elements and tones in unconventional ways, but never losing sight of the importance of story and character. His characters feel authentic, his environments are believable, and his plots are gripping. He’s a great storyteller in the most classic American tradition; one gets the sense that if mankind never got around to technology, Lansdale would be roaming the country, regaling campfire crowds…the one thing he cannot write, will not write, is bullshit.”
The Kind of Face You Hate

Visit the Joe R. Lansdale website.



IF VIEWED FROM BELOW, the twelve of them appeared to be brightly colored cigars. It seemed God had clumsily dropped them from his humidor. But fall they didn’t. They hung in the sky, floated on, and from time to time, as if smoked by invisible lips, they puffed steam.

If you listened carefully, and they weren’t too high, you could hear their motors hum, and if it were high noon and the weather was good, you could hear the John Philip Sousa band out on the promenade, blowing and beating to knock down the heavens or raise up the devil.

Inside the main cabin of the lead zeppelin, called Old Paint due to its spotted canvas, Buffalo Bill Cody, or what was left of him, resided in his liquid-filled jar, long gray hair drifting about his head. He waited for Buntline to turn the crank and juice him up. He certainly needed it. His head felt as if it were stuffed with cotton.

Problem was, Buntline was drunk, passed out beside the table where Cody’s head resided in the thick jar with the product name MASON bulged out in glass at the back of him. He was grateful that Morse had put the logo at the back of him. The idea that he might look out at the world through the word MASON for the remaining life of his head was depressing.

Cody supposed he should be grateful that Doctor Morse and Professor Maxxon had put him here, but there were times when he felt as if he had given himself over to purgatory, or perhaps worse, a living hell.

The liquid in the jar, what Professor Maxxon called activated urine — it actually did contain a quarter pig urine, the rest was one-hundredproof whiskey, and an amber chemical called Number 415 — kept his head alive, but it couldn’t keep his brain from feeling dull, sleepy even.

To think right, to have the juice he needed...well, he needed Buntline to turn that goddamn crank.

Through the cabin’s louvered windows, Cody could see it was high morning and the sunlight was warming up his jar. He had the horrible feeling it would heat up so much the liquid would boil and cook him.

He wondered how the rest of him was doing in Morse’s laboratory in Colorado. They could preserve the body all right, and they could make the heart beat, and of course they were keeping his brain alive here, but did it matter? Would head and body ever reattach?

It was too much to think about.

The lip of the brass mouth horn was fastened just inside his jaw, and when he bit down on it and talked, his voice, due to the liquid, gurgled, but he could be heard, thanks to Morse’s device fastened tight in the center of his throat. He called, “Buntline, you dick cheese, get up.”

Buntline did not get up.

“I’ll have you tossed off this goddamn craft.”

Still no Buntline.

Cody gave it up. When Buntline was truly under a drunk, which these days was most of the time, you couldn’t wake him with a toot from Gabriel’s horn or a kick from Satan’s hoof.

Cody closed his eyes and tried to think of nothing.

But as was often the case, he thought of whiskey, women, and horseback riding. A trio in which he could no longer participate.


Wild Bill Hickok awoke from Annie Oakley’s beautiful ornate bed with a hard-on like a shooting iron, but Annie was gone. The bed was still warm from her and smelled of her sweetness and the sheets were wet in the center where they had made love.

Hickok suffered a tinge of guilt because he was glad Frank Butler, her former husband, was dead. Frank had been a good man, but death had certainly opened up opportunities that Hickok now dutifully enjoyed.

The drawback was Annie still pined for Frank, and sometimes, after their lovemaking she would arise early to sit out on the enclosed zeppelin deck so she could feel guilty and no longer a child of God.

Hickok thought God was a fairy story, so, unlike Annie, that didn’t worry him. He felt worse about Frank’s memory. He thought Frank a hell of a guy, not as famous as himself, or Cody, or many of the others on board, including Annie. But like Annie, he had been a human being superior to them all.

What had made Frank good was Annie. Hickok was looking for that in himself. When he was with Annie, he felt as Frank must have, that he was worthy. That there was more to him than his speed with guns, his skill with cards, his way with whores.

Jesus, he thought. What am I thinking? I need to get the hell out of this Wild West Show and back to the real West. Away from Annie and her goodness, back to gunfights, card games and stinky whores like Calamity Jane — mean as a snake, dumb as a stone, crooked as a politician, with a face like the puckered south end of a northbound mule.

It was safer that way. You didn’t get high-minded. You didn’t have to stand by any morals. Calamity didn’t smell good and when she left a wet spot it was something to attract insects and stick them to it, like flypaper.

A woman like that you didn’t attach to.

But a moment later, dressed in a long-sleeved, red wool shirt, buckskin pants and beaded boots, his long blonde hair and mustache combed, his face washed, Hickok went looking for Annie.


Annie Oakley, Little Miss Sure Shot, twirled her dark hair with one hand, thought of Wild Bill Hickok and their lovemaking, and hated to admit he was far better in bed than Frank had ever been.

But a lady wasn’t supposed to think about such matters. She turned her attention away from that and back to Frank, and though she missed him, knew she still loved him, his image failed to come into total focus.

It faded completely when she saw Hickok coming along the deck toward her. His tall figure, shoulder-length hair, the manly nose, the cut of his hips and shoulders, made her a little queasy.

Out here on the zeppelin deck, covered by glass and wood and curtains, she thought perhaps she could think clearly. That away from his charms she could work up the courage to tell him it was over. That she would now do what she was supposed to do. Wear black till her grave and never love another man.

What courage she had summoned to do such a thing, dissolved as he sat in the deck chair beside her.

“I woke and you were gone.”

“Can’t go far on this craft. I’m easy to find.”

He laid his hand on top of hers. “I suppose that’s true.”

She gently moved it away. “Not in public, Bill. I’m going back to my cabin now. To be alone. Perhaps we’ll talk later.”

“Certainly,” Hickok said. Those clear sharp brown eyes of hers were like the wet eyes of a doe. They had the power to knock holes in his heart. He stood, watched her go away, her long black dress sweeping the hardwood decks.

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