Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
Okay, I managed to snag an advance copy of Hap and Leonard from the publisher, which couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I mean most of these stories made me laugh. One made me cry. So, here’s a short review of the book that is basically an introduction to the new television series of Hap and Leonard.
There’s only one author that if I had to choose between eating for a week or buying his newest book, I’d inevitably pick the novel. The author is Joe R. Lansdale and his many books over the last fifteen years have never disappointed. I’ve considered The Bottoms by Lansdale to be the finest book I’ve ever read during my fifty-two years as an avid reader. Then, Fenders and Lizards, popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box and blew me away. This novel might very well have kicked The Bottoms ass for the number one spot. If you haven’t read it, check the book out on Subterranean Press or Amazon.com. It was published about five weeks ago, and I clearly had to revaluate my thinking on the whole “best” novel deal.
Now, there’s one thing I can tell you as a certain fact. No “Hap & Leonard” novels have ever escaped my clutches. I love this series, and I’m anxiously awaiting the premiere on the television series in the spring of 2016 that’s based on the books by Joe Lansdale. The new series will start with the first novel about the duo, called Savage Season. If the series does well, the next season will see the production of Mucho Mojo and the third season, Two-Bear Mambo. I wanted Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson to play the roles, but the casting director said those guys were too old. He wanted a pair of young dudes who could ride the crest of the wave for the next several years.
Well, all this means is that 2016 is year of Hap Collins and Leonard Pines.
Not only will there be a television series, but also a new novel, Honky Tonk Samurai, is on the way at the beginning of February, and a collection of Hap and Leonard short stories and novellas will be out during the middle of March.
This review is of the collection, and for those who can’t seem to get enough of the boys (that includes yours truly), this is a definite must for their library. Now, I’d already read most of the stories in this collection. Subterranean Press published the three novellas as stand-alone stories (Veil’s Visit, Hyenas, and Dead Aim). I caught some of the short stories in various publications over the years. There were a few stories, however, that were new to me such as Death by Chili, Not Our Kind, and Bent Twig. All the others, I read for a second time and enjoyed them just as much. As Mr. Lansdale might say, “This was more fun than rolling down a hill with a bunch of armadillos.”
Let me say this, all of the stories are great!
Period. End of discussion.
There were two stories, however, that spoke to my heart and soul.
The first was The Boy Who Became Invisible, which deals with Hap Collins as a young kid. Hap played with his friend, Jesse, throughout most of Elementary School. Jesse was from the wrong side of the tracks, but Hap didn’t care, that is until he became part of the “in crowd” in the later grades. We know what the “in crowd” is, don’t we? They’re the group everyone wants to be a part of, but are filled with only a select few. They’re also the ones who would laugh at Jesse as he came to school in his clothes from the Salvation Army store, carrying his lunch in a brown paper bag. Though Hap didn’t like what he was doing, he still pulled away from Jesse and seldom spent time with him anymore. He didn’t want his new friends to drop him like a lit cherry bomb. Then, during the Ninth Grade, something happened that caused Hap to take a hard, cold look at his own actions and behavior with Jesse. As Michael Koryta says in the Introduction, the last sentence in the story will resonate with the reader long after the piece of fiction is finished: “The razor strop lay across them like a dead snake.” If you haven’t read the story, then you won’t know what this means, but it still haunts me after two weeks. Because my parents moved around so much and I was always the new kid in school, I was pretty much like Jesse, until I learned how to fight.
The second story is Not Our Kind, which centers on how Hap Collins and Leonard Pine became the best of friends. Now, it’s not hard to imagine what takes place in the story, especially since it’s in East Texas and the race wars were still in progress at the time. Few white people in the story like Hap spending all of his free time with the black Leonard Pines, but these two young men recognized a kindred soul in each other and that’s made them stronger and more loyal than any friends should be. This struck a chord in me because of a short, but deep friendship I had during the summer of 1967 with a black sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Forces, who was stationed in Bangkok at the same time I was there with my mother and younger sister. He was like an older brother to me. When we had to leave the city with only a few hours notice, he and his A-team got us to the airport and stood guard until we boarded the airplane. There was also a unit of Thai Special Forces protecting us, too. I’ve had very few close friendships during my life, but that was one I still treasure and have never forgotten. He was my Leonard Pines.
As I said earlier, all the stories in this collection are great. You won’t be disappointed with any of them. I guarantee it. Many of the stories you won’t want to end. If you do, well, I guess I’ll just have to send Leonard to see you, and we know what Leonard’s like, don’t we? Make him mad and he’ll beat you like a bongo drum!