Week Three: In Anticipation of HNR’s Joe R. Lansdale Appreciation Day, ‘The Two-Bear Mambo’ Review
Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
The Two-Bear Mambo Joe R. Lansdale is the third novel in the continuing saga of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, beginning where Mucho Mojo left off.
The novel starts out with Hap arriving at Leonard’s house on Christmas Eve night. Blasting out of his friend’s home is the music to “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and Leonard is next door, kicking righteous butt and burning down the neighborhood crack house once again. The police pull Hap and Leonard in, but Lieutenant Marvin Hanson gets them off the hook, provided they do him a small favor.
It seems that Hap’s old girlfriend, Florida Grange (the one who left him for Hanson) took off to Grovetown, Texas to do an article on a black musician who supposedly hung himself while in the custody of the local police. Florida has suddenly vanished, and Hanson wants Hap and Leonard to pay a visit to Grovetown to see if they can find out anything. The only problem is that this particular Texas town is right out of the fifties and sixties. It’s a viper’s nest filled with Klansmen, led by Jackson Brown, who enjoy murdering the black folks and seem to be getting away with it.
Both Hap and Leonard know that they’re going to have their hands full just trying to stay alive as they attempt to investigate Florida’s disappearance. Even together, as tough as they are, both men are going to find out that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew when they take on the populace of Grovetown. They’ll find themselves in the middle of free-for-all that would put Billy Jack to shame and come very close to getting beaten to death. Both men will discover true fear for the first time in their lives and have to find a way of dealing with it as their injuries heal, if they want to be able to face each other again, as well as solve the mystery of what happened to Florida when they eventually return to Grovetown to face the evil of its populace.
The Two-Bear Mambo will give you a slightly different perspective of our two heroes this time around, making them more flawed and human. As tough as Hap and Leonard are, they’re not invincible, and both of them come very close to death as they seek to right a wrong. They will find out things about themselves that will at first be difficult to face; yet, in the long run make them stronger.
Though a part of me knows these two characters are fictional, the writing is so blasted good that another part of me almost believes they’re real. These are guys that I’d love to hang out with, and it’s a tribute to the talent of Joe R. Lansdale that he’s created such believable characters…characters who are funny, skilled martial artists, almost always unemployed, who have the same kinds of problems with relationships that real people do, and who have a strong sense of honor and justice that gets them into trouble more often than not.
Mr. Lansdale is able to do this because he has a unique skill in writing that comes off as being natural and down to earth, but is actually a master craftsman at work. He knows how to make each and every character in the novel come alive in ways I wish other authors could emulate. I never know how each book is going to end; and, quite often, I find myself stunned by who gets killed off.
As you can probably tell, the “Hap Collins/Leonard Pine” series has swept me off of my feet in a way that few other books have, and it’s one I can highly recommend to any reader who loves novels filled with action, humor, self-reflection, and characters that make you truly believe. I wish I could sit down with Hap and Leonard, have a beer, and talk about life in general. Of course, they’d probably be more interested in getting something to eat to go along with their beer.
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