Hap and Leonard are unlikely friends, but friends nevertheless. They both grew up in East Texas, and both are outsiders. Leonard is black, gay, and politically conservative. Hap is white, straight, and liberal, and served time rather than serve in Vietnam. What links them, other than their outsider status, is a shared moral sensibility, an inability to mind their own business, and the fighting skills to get themselves out of trouble. It is the two characters’ friendship alongside Lansdale’s humour and ear for comedy which has given the series its longevity.
The 14 stories in Blood and Lemonade are narrated in the present day, but all relate to events prior to Savage Season. Most of them are original, but a couple have been published previously in hard-to-find anthologies. They take the form of Hap and (usually) Leonard reminiscing about their early lives, starting when they were teenagers. Tire Fire, the second story, details their first meeting; Hap was out hunting at night with a school friend when he came across a fight under a bridge. A young black man – Leonard – has challenged a group of young white boys to a fight, and has made short order of the first two, but the mood is going sour and Leonard won’t stand a fair chance if the group turns on him en masse. Both Hap and his friend Roger can see the danger, but only Hap is prepared to stand up for the stranger, even though he knows he might be making trouble for himself further down the line.
The longest story in the book is In the River of the Dead, and reads the closest to the novels. Hap and Leonard are out fishing together and when their boat breaks down they have to make camp for the night. It is their misfortune that they are spotted by a hillbilly family out on the river at night to recover a stolen shipment of heroin sunk in the river after a double-cross. The boys may be relatively wet behind the ears but they know there is no way they are going to be allowed to leave once they have recovered the drugs. This story, with its memorable villains, crude language and daring action, was the one that most made me want to pick up one of the novels again.
All the writing is as you would expect from a seasoned pro like Lansdale, but the brevity of some of the stories (or perhaps they should be called chapters) makes it hard for him to really let loose and show off his skills. For long-time admirers of the author like me, Blood and Lemonade is a delightful addition to the novels and a much welcome answer to the mystery of how their friendship developed.
Matthew Monagle at FILM SCHOOL REJECTS discusses Jim Mickle and Nick Damici’s Joe R. Lansdale adaptations.
Much like King, Texas author Joe Lansdale has made a reputation for himself among genre fans as a purveyor of witty dialogue, diabolical characters, and geographic specificity. And while Lansdale would wait more than twenty years for a big-screen adaptation of one of his stories, thanks to two dedicated filmmakers-slash-fans, Lansdale’s work has become a hot ticket for both film and television. Director Jim Mickle and actor/co-writer Nick Damici first hit it off while working together on a 2001 NYU student film, collaborating on a series of low-budget horror films (Mulberry Street, Stake Land) in the last decade. And in the last few years, they’ve become experts in all things Lansdale by bringing the author’s most beloved works to the screen with 2014’s COLD IN JULY and the ongoing Sundance television series HAP AND LEONARD.
All told, the work of Lansdale, Mickle, and Damici serves as the high point of the modern Texas crime thriller. While movies like HELL OR HIGH WATER have breathed new life into the modern Western, Mickle and Damici’s work might only be matched by Darabont’s films in terms of their thoughtful adaptation of tricky source material. Mickle has described Lansdale’s novels as possessing “some of that Lynchian, twisted Americana vibe, but distinctly Texan,” as well as pointing out the way his books draw on multiple genres to tell their stories. Like the work of Stephen King, Joe Lansdale’s novels seem like a disaster in the hands of someone unable to understand the unique worlds the author has created. And like the films of Stephen King, Lansdale’s adaptations demonstrate an unparalleled grasp of an author’s tone.
Seattle’s KING 5 NEWS interviews Lansdale about Hap and Leonard.
A Texas novelist’s bestselling series is now a hit show on Sundance TV. Hap and Leonard is set in East Texas where two best friends run into trouble with a pair of killers, and the cops, while trying to solve crimes as private investigators.
RUSTY PUPPY is the latest novel in the series, and finds Hap and Leonard investigating a racially-motivated murder that threatens to tear their community apart.. Novelist Joe Lansdale shared more about the series and the show.
Abbie Bernstein at ASSIGNMENT X interviews Michael Kenneth Williams about playing gay black Viet Nam veterans on two different shows.
However, right now Williams is in the unusual position of being on television almost simultaneously as two very different gay black Viet Nam veterans. In ABC’s LGBTQ civil rights miniseries WHEN WE RISE, running February 7 through March 3, the actor from Brooklyn plays real-life gay rights activist Ken Jones. In Season 2 of Sundance TV’s HAP AND LEONARD, coming later this year, Williams reprises his role of Southern small-time criminal Leonard Pine opposite James Purefoy’s Hap.
Michael K. Williams and James Purefoy as Leonard Pine and Hap Collins
ASSIGNMENT X: Between Leonard Pine and Ken Jones, did it strike you that you’d cornered this kind of unique character niche?
MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS: [laughs] Let’s just say I had some concerns. I called [my manager] when that revelation landed. I was like, “They’re already questioning my sexuality [after Season 1 of HAP AND LEONARD]. Now I’m really going to be in trouble after this.” I don’t know why it turns out like this, but I don’t hesitate to tell the truth, to tell a slice of life, to be a vehicle, to be a vessel. I don’t hesitate. I don’t care how misunderstood or unpopular the lifestyle may be. If there’s a human being that lives and acts and feels this way, I as a thespian, it’s my duty if I’m called to do it, to do it. And do it with empathy and humanity.
For more info about HAP AND LEONARD: BLOOD AND LEMONADE, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Elizabeth Story
For more info about COLD IN JULY, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story