Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: Hap and Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale

Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 8/10/2016

There's a lot going on in the world of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Their story is being adapted by Sundance for a television series (recently renewed for a second season), there's a new novel (Honky Tonk Samurai) and then there's this, a collection of some of the shorter works featuring the unlikely duo from East Texas. Hap is a liberal blue collar redneck and his best friend Leonard is a conservative gay black Vietnam War vet. Each man is a paradox unto himself, which might explain why they get along so well.

This brief collection opens with an appreciation of the author by fellow novelist Michael Koryta and closes with a couple of non-fiction pieces: one in which Lansdale interviews his two main characters and an essay from Lansdale about the genesis and evolution of the series. In between are a baker's half-dozen stories.

The collection opens with one of the longest pieces, "Hyenas," the perfect introduction to the stories of these unlikely amigos. It is a classic Hap & Leonard tale, starting with Leonard getting himself into some trouble with some bad guys and, by extension, the local law enforcement, with Hap being summoned to try to calm the situation. Hap and Leonard aren't detectives or lawyers, but they do often find themselves being hired to get people out of sticky situations, and that's just what they do here when they agree to help a guy prevent his brother from getting in trouble. The course of their little schemes never does run smooth, of course, and their loved ones oftentimes become collateral damage, although they usually do come out the other side successful if slightly scathed.

The second story, "Veil's Visit," is a collaboration with Andrew Vachss. Leonard has a turbulent history with his next door neighbors, who run a crack house that he has burned down on occasion. He's finally brought to court over the issue and Vachss' series character Veil, a lawyer, travels to East Texas to defend him. Leonard isn't sold on the man, but an anecdote from Veil's past, recounted by Hap, seals the deal. Courtroom hilarity enuses.

The brief and whimsical "Death by Chili" deals with a man who was supposedly murdered for his chili recipe, although there has long been speculation that it was actually a suicide. It's a kind of thought problem, and Leonard thinks he knows the solution, although there's no way to prove it. The story is followed by Lansdale's recipe for chili, which includes taking Pepcid during the process.

"Dead Aim" is the centerpiece of the collection, a novella wherein Hap and Leonard are enlisted to protect a woman from her abusive soon-to-be-ex. It's not the kind of job a detective agency normally handles, but the woman's expectation is that the dynamic duo will meet up with the stalker and "have a conversation" with him that will convince him that any future contact with her would be a bad idea. Hap and Leonard don't exactly trust their client, but the fee is good, so they decide to look into things. A few dead bodies later, and the case has clearly taken an unexpected twist, which is to be expected when Hap and Leonard get involved with something. Especially when the Dixie Mafia are part of the mix.

"The Boy Who Became Invisible" is a change of pace, a story about Hap when he was just a kid growing up on the banks of the Sabine River. In the fifth grade, Hap has a change of heart about the poor kid who has long been his friend. It's a story about the casual cruelty of children and the possible repercussions of shunning and shaming someone.

"Not Our Kind" is the origin story: how Hap and Leonard first met in high school and the pervasive racism that ensued that helped seal their friendship. In the closing story, "Bent Twig," Hap's long-time partner Brett asks for help with her daughter, Tillie, who has been in a series of legal and relationship problems in the past. Now she's missing and her lowlife boyfriend has been murdered.

This collection is a good introduction to the eccentric characters who feature in ten novels and now the television series. The stories are full of trademark repartee, violence and shenanigans.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2016. All rights reserved.