"Too many guns is not like too many guitars."
And I'm glad he did.
Man, are they great! I don't even know why they're trying to market them as. Horror? Suspense? Voodoo hoodoo crime fiction? Country noir? East Texas gothic?
But definitely file 'em under "Kick Ass."
As in "these really are just great, rock 'em, sock 'em books." The two "heroes" are HAP COLLINS , a disillusioned former sixties activist and self-confessed white trash rebel, and his best bud, LEONARD PINE, a hardass black gay Vietnam vet who doesn't seem to have any illusions about anything at all. These two East Texas yahoos manage to end up in some of the weirdest situations imaginable. They're not really private eyes or, to tell the truth, much of anything professionally. They're frequently out of work -- layabouts who work assorted odd jobs, anything from treasure hunting to housesitting) and somehow, inevitably find themselves mixed up in some truly nasty business. And sometimes, they even act as (unofficial) private detectives. In Devil's Red (2012), they're reunited with their old pal Marvin Hanson, a former homicide cop (and the main character in Lansdale's very first novel, Act of Love) who's become a private investigator, and fobs off one of his cold cases onto the boys.
But whatever "job" they're working never quite seems to matter when the stories are this good.
Maybe it's a new sub-genre...the Gonzo Crime Novel. Maybe I can claim I discovered it. Or at least tagged it. Outlandish characters, lots of weaponry, both legal and illegal, rednecks, looney tunes and some real humdinger plot twists, all set to a rock'n'roll soundtrack (no soft, muted jazzbo soundtracks for these books--they're the literary equivalent to a really great rock'n'roll radio station set to eleven...or maybe twelve).
Hap and Leonard's back and forth banter is certainly not going to meet any federally-approved politically correct standards, but Hap and Leonard are great characters. The first book in the series, Savage Season, really packs a wallop, reminds me of a cross between Deliverance and Straw Dogs and maybe The Big Chill, sort of a outdoorsy showdown as orchestrated by Quentin Tarantino via John Boorman, and so far, the series has shown no signs of slowing down.
But then, Joe R. Lansdale is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the great storytellers of our time, a two-fisted gonzo writer who's never met a genre whose ass he couldn't kick. He's written over thirty novels and countless short stories, and has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. He has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies, and has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. He is Writer In Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University, and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, the Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.
Besides the Hap and Leonard stories, fans of this site out to check out his 1998 collection, Private Eye Action... As You Like It, as well as his awesome horror/detective hybrid tale "The Bleeding Shadow".
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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