Monday, July 26, 2010
A bit busy today, so here's a reprint from a now-defunct blog I once wrote for, reviews of the Joe R. Lansdale series featuring the characters Hap and Leonard. eventually, I'm sure I'll repeat them all, but if you want to avoid the rush, they're all good.
The first novel in the series is the 1990 release Savage Season, which introduced the characters, and began Lansdale’s transition from an edgy, extreme horror writer into a somewhat more mainstream author of crime novels. It is one of the high points of popular literature of the last quarter-century.
The main characters of the books are best friends Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Hap is a forty-something white guy, who is something of a disillusioned idealist. Standing on his principles in the late 60s landed him a stint in prison for resisting the draft. Leonard is also in his forties, is a gay black man, and a Vietnam veteran. As much as anything, the series is about the bonds of male friendship, and the frequent debates between the pair (Leonard, a country music fan, is by far the more conservative of the two) are side-splitting displays of political incorrectness. The book is set in and around the East Texas town of LaBorde.
When the story opens, Hap and Leonard are working in the rose fields, back-breaking menial work. They have an opportunity to make some money and escape their monotonous existence when a face from Hap’s past appears, his ex-wife Trudy. Trudy was a firebrand radical, who divorced Hap when he was in prison, and now works at the Dairy Queen. She has a proposition: Her current boyfriend, Howard, was in prison with a bank robber who told him of a huge score on his last job that had been lost in a Texas river. Trudy and Howard have put together a team to recover the money, and use it to fund revolutionary causes. Hap and Leonard, who are needed for their diving abilities, join in the scheme strictly for the money.
Trudy is a classic femme fatale. Although Hap resists the judgment, Leonard knows from the outset that Tudy brings disaster to Hap, and disaster is what they find. One double-cross follows another, and eventually Hap and Leonard are trying to escape with their lives. The book works as a gritty crime novel, or as an outright comedy. Highly, highly recommended.