Joe R. Lansdale
Tachyon Publications, San Francisco
Paperback, 978-1-61696-370-5, 310 pages
March 21, 2022
East Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale has set a high bar for authors hoping to be prolific. He’s had more than fifty novels published and won an Edgar Award, ten Stoker Awards, and a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, among others. Many of his books have been adapted for film and television, and he’s written numerous screenplays and teleplays.
Lansdale’s newest book, Born for Trouble: The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard, is the twentieth in his long-running Hap and Leonard series. It’s a darkly humorous collection of five previously uncollected crime stories starring his two small-town East Texas crime investigators, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. They solve cases mostly by getting themselves into bad situations and life-threatening fights that require dangerous escapes. Typically described as a “not so dynamic duo,” Hap and Leonard are just about the ultimate in mismatched private eyes. While Hap looks and acts like many other “good old boys,” Leonard Pine is gay, Black, and most likely to be viewed as “not from around here,” even though he is.
Born for Trouble’s stories again have Hap and Leonard trying to solve odd, horrifying crimes. In “Coco Butternut,” for example, they are asked to help recover a pet dog’s embalmed and mummified body stolen from a pet cemetery. But the case quickly morphs into a more serious and violent investigation. In “Hoodoo Harry,” Hap and Leonard are returning from a fishing trip when their vehicle and boat are wrecked by an out-of-control bookmobile with a horrifying cargo hidden inside. In “Sad Onions,” stopping to help a woman seemingly in distress leaves Hap and Leonard in mortal danger unless they can escape by creating what they call “the elephant of surprise.”
The two remaining stories also showcase Lansdale’s effective blends of dark humor, horror, mystery, and salty dialogue. In “The Briar Patch Boogie,” Hap and Leonard try to help someone and end up being hunted like wild animals. And in “Cold Cotton,” Hap wrestles with feelings about aging and career before teaming up again with Leonard to investigate a murder: “It was still hard for me to think of myself as a private eye,” he muses. “In my mind, real private eyes, they actually knew something about investigation. All I knew was persistence.”
In his new book’s introduction, Lansdale serves up an entertaining overview of the Hap and Leonard series and its long-running impact on his writing career. He has, he says, included “bits of social commentary, ribald humor, and the feelings and look of the East Texas environment. Contrary to what some might think, East Texas is not all redneck ignorance and racism and gun violence, but those things certainly exist. The reason it is so prevalent in my fiction is not that a better and positive side of East Texas doesn’t exist; it is that the negative elements are what I wish to comment on, and stories that frequently are about crime or criminal elements will certainly have some bad characters in them.”
Joe R. Lansdale is the internationally-bestselling author of over fifty novels, including the popular, long-running Hap and Leonard series. Many of his cult classics have been adapted for television and film, most famously the films Bubba Ho-Tep and Cold in July, and the Hap and Leonard series on Sundance TV and Netflix. Lansdale has written numerous screenplays and teleplays, including the iconic Batman the Animated Series. He has won an Edgar Award for The Bottoms, ten Stoker Awards, and has been designated a World Horror Grandmaster. Lansdale, like many of his characters, lives in East Texas, with his wife, Karen, and their pit bull, Nicky.