What We’re Reading Now: HAP AND LEONARD: BLOOD AND LEMONADE

HAP AND LEONARD: BLOOD AND LEMONADE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Joe R. Lansdale

Published in March 2017 by Tachyon Publishing

Reviewed by David Eric Tomlinson

The swampy bottom-lands of East Texas are the setting for Joe R. Lansdale’s most recent installment in the Hap and Leonard chronicles, Blood and Lemonade. It’s a “Mosaic Novel” of short stories, in which the older Hap Collins – a soft spoken, liberal-minded tough guy in a backwater town – and his best friend Leonard Pine – black, gay, and even tougher – reflect on the formative moments of their decades-long friendship.

Hap and Leonard are an odd-couple sort of crime-fighting team. Upon meeting, as teenagers – at a brawl, of course, where Hap holds a gun on a mob so that Leonard can get a fair fight against a single opponent – they immediately take a shine to one another. Nobody in this part of Texas understands their bond – not their uncles, not their lovers, not their supposed friends. The two of them couldn’t care less.

Lansdale writes convincing violence. The details are accurate and specific, and he has a great spatial awareness which keeps the reader grounded in any unfolding action. But he’s at his best when revealing the inner lives of his characters, such as when Hap sees Leonard a few days after that first introduction:

“As I came along the sidewalk, I saw Leonard coming toward me. He saw me and smiled. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, but when I saw him I knew I had missed him. He was like a stray dog that wandered in and out of my life, and I felt like when we were together that something missing was fulfilled.”

Racism is the unifying theme to this collection: how it segregates and divides towns, dehumanizes some while empowering others, breeding cycles of retributive violence.

Lansdale’s redneck Hardy Boys come up in this rough-and-tumble, working-class landscape, where “Dad was always greasy because he always worked,” where any argument worth having usually ends in bloodshed, and where racial tensions were high.

Because Lansdale’s novel was released as part of a marketing effort to promote the new Hap & Leonard TV series on Sundance, I wound up watching the first few episodes. In one scene, the aging but unflappable Hap – his once chiseled body now bloated with drink – is confronted by his ex-wife Trudy:

“What happened to you, Hap?”

“Life.”

To survive such an imperfect society, Hap and Leonard form a quirky, yet perfect friendship. Against all odds, it endures.

David Eric Tomlinson has been a member of the Writers’ League since 2013. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, educated in California, and now lives in Texas. You can learn more about his debut novel THE MIDNIGHT MAN at www.daviderictomlinson.com

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