Thursday, March 10, 2016

Introducing Hap and Leonard

First appearing in 1990, this is the book that introduced Joe R. Lansdale's most popular characters, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Brothers under the skin, Hap is a good-old-boy white guy from East Texas while Leonard is a black, gay Vietnam War vet. The two practice martial arts together and when we first meet them, they're living close to poverty and eking out a living working in a rose field.

Still, life is fairly copacetic until, out of nowhere, Hap's very sexy ex-wife, Trudy, suddenly shows up. There's no love lost between Leonard and Trudy, but Hap is a guy who more often than not is happy to let his little head do the thinkin', especially when it comes to Trudy. 

After a blissful and energetic reunion, Trudy confesses that she hasn't returned just for a quick romp. She and her current beau, Howard, have a line on what may be upwards of a million dollars that was stolen from a bank years earlier and apparently lies sealed in containers under the deep, frigid waters of a tributary of the Sabine River. Trudy, an unreconstructed hippie, would like Hap to help them recover the money so that she and Howard can donate it to Save the Whales and other worthy causes. 

Trudy is willing to give Hap two hundred thousand dollars of the loot for his trouble since she, Howard and their two other confederates have only a vague idea of where the money might actually be while Hap, who was born and raised in the area has a very good idea. Sexually exhausted, Hap isn't thinking all that clearly, but he agrees to at least consider the scheme. Much to Trudy's consternation, Hap immediately brings Leonard into the action, promising to share his end of the money 50-50.

Much against his better judgment, Leonard agrees and what follows is an action-filled and often hilarious romp. Inevitably a scheme like this is going to go sideways almost immediately, putting everyone involved in the harebrained scheme in grave danger. It's a lot of fun watching all of this play out, and this book provides the basis for the first season of "Hap and Leonard" which is now playing on the Sundance Channel. I'm a huge fan of Michael K. Williams ("The Wire" and "Empire Boardwalk") who's signed on to play Leonard. For that reason alone, I'm really anxious to give the series a try.

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