These are exciting times for fans of Hap and Leonard, the duo of unlikely East Texas buddies and crime fighters created by Joe R. Lansdale. The 13th novel of the series, HONKY TONK SAMURAI, was published last month. Early March saw the premiere of the Sundance Channel TV series, starring James Purefoy as Hap and Michael K. Williams as Leonard, and adapted from SAVAGE SEASON, the first novel of the series.
To mark the occasion, Lansdale has gathered together the short fiction and related writings about the pair in his latest collection titled, appropriately enough, HAP AND LEONARD.
For the uninitiated, Hap Collins, the narrator of the stories, seems your typical country good ole boy, except for his education and liberal politics. Leonard Pine, Hap’s closest friend for most of his life, is a black, Vietnam vet with conservative views, and is also gay. The two often barely make ends meet doing odd jobs, but occasionally are hired to eliminate some criminal doings in their little East Texas town and the surrounding areas.
Stand-outs among the seven stories of this collection include the opening novella “Hyenas,” where a man Leonard meets at a bar fight hires the duo to rescue his younger brother who has fallen in with a gang of violent bank robbers. In “Death By Chili” Hap and Leonard recall the unsolved death of a local man who might have been murdered for his famous, cook-off winning chili recipe. As a bonus the story ends with the author’s own recipe for honest-to-Texas chili.
Also included is “Not Our Kind,” a new story exclusive to this collection, recalling the early days of young Hap’s friendship with Leonard, and the resentment expressed by Hap’s mostly white schoolmates and the adult town residents. It’s bad enough that Hap chooses to hang out with a “colored boy,” say those around him. But rumor has it that this same colored boy is a “homo,” which makes the friendship all the more regrettable.
Rounding out the collection is an interview with Hap and Leonard, conducted by the author, and “The Care and Feeding and Raising Up of Hap and Leonard,” where Lansdale traces the origins and development of the duo and this popular series during the formative years of his writing career. Noted crime and horror author Michael Koryta contributes an appreciative introduction, detailing the special appeal of the Hap and Leonard stories, and photos from the Sundance TV series illustrate the book. Several of the stories were first published as e-books, or in limited edition collections long since out of print.
For those new to either Lansdale or the series, this latest collection is an excellent introduction to the kind of trouble these two often find themselves in; all the while exchanging some of the funniest, lovingly antagonistic, and memorial dialogue of any crime series. New readers will soon find themselves seeking out the previous Hap and Leonard novels, which fortunately are all currently available in paperback reprints.
Lansdale fans need only know the title of this new collection to have them immediately adding it to their bookshelves, and either revisiting or finally experiencing these wonderful but slightly shorter adventures of Hap and Leonard. —Alan Cranis