Review: ‘Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade’ by Joe R. Lansdale

BloodAndLemonadeHap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale
Tachyon Publications (March 2017)

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is equal parts short story collection and novel; or, as author Joe Lansdale terms it in his Afterword, a “mosaic novel.” The stories are a mix of previously published material and a couple of new stories, all of them set in the early days of the duo’s friendship. The wrap-around segments take place in the present day, and mostly consist of the two guys riding around and reminiscing, a conceit that works as well as it does because of the long (ten novels’ worth) history between the two, not to mention Lansdale’s considerable storytelling skill. Continue reading

Review: ‘Hap and Leonard’ by Joe R. Lansdale

hapandleonardHap and Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale
Tachyon Publications (March 2016)

After nine novels and a number of short stories and novellas, sitting down with a new Hap and Leonard book is less like reading and more like meeting up with a couple of buddies to have a drink and swap some stories. That’s just about the highest compliment I know how to pay author Joe R. Lansdale, who has created a set of timeless characters who seem to live and breathe outside of his own considerable imagination.
Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Dead Aim’ by Joe R. Lansdale

Dead_AimAt this point in the series, some eight novels and a couple novellas in, reading a Hap and Leonard book is like having a couple of buddies over – the kind of buddies that always have the best stories to tell. Those kind of buddies rarely, if ever, let you down. The same can be said for Joe R. Lansdale‘s Hap and Leonard books.

If there’s a formula to the Hap and Leonard books, it’s this: the guys take on a job – protecting someone, or following someone, or maybe helping someone that’s been done wrong get a little payback; said job turns out to be much more complicated than originally thought; the guys deal with the complications with a little luck, a little skill, a little help, and, when necessary, a little brute force; the guys live to fight another day, while their adversaries (if they survive) limp off to jail, or crawl back under the rock where they came from. It’s simple, straightforward stuff, but Lansdale tells these stories with such skill that each one is like a breath of fresh air.

Dead Aim, a novella released earlier this year by Subterranean Press, sticks closely to the aforementioned formula. Hap and Leonard are tasked with watching over a woman whose about-to-be ex-husband may have negative feelings toward her and their current marital situation. The guys split up, leaving Leonard to watch her while Hap follows her ex. When someone puts a bullet in the ex’s head, though, the duo begin to understand that the situation runs much deeper than a man who didn’t want a divorce.

More murders come into play, as well as gambling debts, kidnapping, and the Dixie Mafia, a group that Hap and Leonard have already had some unpleasant dealings with (see Vanilla Ride and Devil Red). Impressively, Lansdale manages to pack all of this into a condensed page count without it feeling rushed or crammed – it all flows out in a smooth, engaging fashion. There’s also time for Hap to do a little soul-searching, something that’s been going on for the last several books. He’s a man coming to grips with his station in life, and he’s not completely pleased with where things stand. He’s happy to have his friend Leonard, who he usually refers to as his brother, and he’s head-over-heels in love with a beautiful nurse named Brett, a fiery redhead who doesn’t let her femininity keep her from being as tough and caustic as the man she loves. And although Hap is a man who is unafraid to hurt people, and is usually pretty good at it, it’s not something he enjoys, and the fact that he keeps finding himself in those situations continues to trouble him.

Plots and character growth aside, the real draw for me is the relationship between Hap and Leonard. Although it’s a relationship that exists between two figments of a man’s imagination, it feels as real to me as my own closest friendships. That’s not a knock on my friendships, it’s a testament to Lansdale’s amazing storytelling ability. I could read a 300 page novel about Hap and Leonard sitting in a car on a stakeout – a novel in which nothing else happens and the stakeout is a bust – and be perfectly content. The supporting cast is great and the predicaments Lansdale dreams up for the guys are always a blast, but seriously – 300 pages of these two shooting the shit in a car would suit me just fine.

Subterranean Press locks in two slots on the 2013 “Most Anticipated” list with new Lansdale, McCammon novellas

A couple of hints emerged today about novellas that should be coming to us from Subterranean Press in 2013, both of which should be exciting to fans of good stories.

The first one is more than a hint, really, as it is now up for preorder on the Subterranean Press website. I’m speaking of Dead Aim, a new novella in the “Hap and Leonard” series from Joe R. Lansdale. It’s not the first book in Lansdale’s series that Subterranean has published (Hyenas was released in 2011), so I hope this is a sign that the author has found a permanent home for shorter works featuring two of his best characters.

The synopsis for Dead Aim reads:

The story begins simply enough when the two agree to provide protection for a woman harassed by her violent, soon-to-be-ex husband. But, as readers of this series will already know, events in the lives of Hap and Leonard rarely stay simple for long. When a protracted stakeout ends in a lethal shooting and a pair of moldering corpses turn up in an otherwise deserted trailer, the nature of this “routine” assignment changes dramatically. The ensuing investigation unearths a complex web of lies, duplicity, and hidden agendas that leads from an upscale Texas law firm to the world of organized crime, culminating in the kind of explosive, anything-can-happen confrontation that only Joe Lansdale could create. Violent, profane, and often raucously funny, Dead Aim is a tautly written, hugely entertaining thriller and a triumph of the storyteller’s art.

This one is scheduled for a January 2013 release. I’m so there.

The other book I want to mention has not appeared on Subterranean’s site as of yet. It’s a novella by Robert McCammon called I Travel By Night, and so far the only information I can find comes from McCammon’s own blog, where he wrote about the story today. (Subterranean Press tweeted about the title a couple of weeks ago, but provided no details.) I highly recommend heading over and reading the whole entry, which is about a lot more than this particular novella. Here’s what he has to say about the story:

It’s set in the 1880s and is about a gunslinger/vampire/adventurer who seeks to reverse his state of vampirism and rejoin the human race. How he can do this is—at least in my mythology—to drink the “ichor” from the vampire who “turned” him. This creature being a beautiful woman called LaRouge, and protected by the Dark Society of vampires and shapeshifters who populate the underworld around her.

A return to horror, mixed with the type of historical setting he’s demonstrated such mastery over in the “Matthew Corbett” series of novels? Once again – I’m there. (There’s no firm release date on this, but McCammon mentions a possible May 2013 release on his blog.)

McCammon really seems to feel at home with Subterranean, which is allowing him to follow his muse wherever it takes him. Here’s hoping that he and Lansdale both continue to produce work that is true to their vision no matter who publishes it.