David M. Simon at DAVE WRITES AND DRAWS praises Joe R. Lansdale’s OF MICE AND MINESTRONE – HAP AND LEONARD: THE EARLY YEARS.
Through the various novels and novellas in the series, we readers have been able to follow the twosome through just about their entire adult lives. The one thing missing, except for the occasional stories they would tell, was their early lives. That began to change in 2017 with BLOOD AND LEMONADE, a collection of loosely connected short stories that delved into Hap and Leonard’s early years. The book was a revelation, and included their very first meeting, a truly epic night that fits neatly into their wild and wooly mythology.
Now Lansdale has gifted us with OF MICE AND MINESTRONE, subtitled HAP AND LEONARD: THE EARLY YEARS. If anything, this one is even better. Lansdale is one of our very best short story writers, and every story here is a gem. By seeing Hap and Leonard as teenage boys, we’re given an intimate glimpse of the men they will become. OF MICE AND MINESTRONE features everything Lansdale is best at, including lovingly described hand to hand combat, real, flesh and blood characters, the best dialogue this side of Elmore Leonard, and sometimes scatological, always laugh out loud humor.
For CRIME READS, Scott Montgomery delivers The Evolution of Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard.
Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard books make up one of the most unique series in crime fiction. East Texas liberal redneck Hap Collins narrates his misadventures with gay, black, republican and, lethal buddy Leonard Pine that often veer into the violent and sometimes surreal. The stories cover a lot of territory, with indictments of racism, right wing politics, and the dangers of organized religion, yet always carrying a through line about the power of friendship and the families you create.
“I think I always feel like I’m going home with those guys.” Joe explains. “Hap has a similar past to my own, and Leonard is like a number of people I know combined, and actually has a lot of me in him as well. Hap’s voice is so natural to me. The genre engine that drives the stories satisfies why I became a reader in the first place, and then a writer. I love genre storylines, but I also love more literary aspects of style and character, and dialogue grows out of character. It’s bigger than life dialogue as Hap and Leonard are bigger than life characters. They seem everyday in a way, and that is part of their appeal, a certain authenticity, but at the same time they are bigger than life.”
If you’re a fan of the series, you have gotten used to the breaks Joe takes from it to work on other books. Before this latest hiatus from The Boys (as he often refers to them), Joe has left us a collection of short stories, OF MICE AND MINESTRONE, to hold us over until their return, while he takes on other literary pursuits. The pause also gives us a chance to look at the novels of the past, which can be broken up into four separate trilogies.
Montgomery at MYSTERY PEOPLE interviews Lansdale about More Better Deals.
Scott Montgomery: More Better Deals is an homage to one of your favorite writers James M Cain. You once described him as a “clean writer.” What does that mean to you?
Joe R. Lansdale: His prose is uncluttered. He doesn’t even tell you who’s talking, and you always know. He writes tight, little stories without adornment, but his prose is still fast paced and muscular and understandable.
SM: While I see the classic Cain plot setup, the voice, characters, and theme are all yours. How do you try to use your influences in your work?
JRL: Well, this is a more obvious one than usual. I have wanted to play with the Cain structure—at least the one he developed for his two signature books in my view, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice—then undercurrent it with social commentary without it being too overwhelming, and I wanted to give it my voice and more humor, though it is certainly dark humor.