Reading Review:
Two Hap and Leonard Novellas by Joe R. Lansdale

by Michael Channing

If you and I are going to be friends, you should know who Hap collins and Leonard Pine are. They're my favorite literary characters. I grab up every book they're in and read them as quickly as my slothful brain will allow. Lansdale once went years between new volumes, so the recent rush of new Hap and Leonard material, even these short visits, made my heart go pitter-pat.

Dead Aim

Dead Aim by Joe R. Lansdale

Nothing's ever easy for our boys over in East Texas. Trouble doesn't just follow them around, it shows up early and waits behind the door with a sock full of pennies. Here, they're just supposed to make sure a client's soon-to-be ex-husband doesn't show up and get violent. Simple enough. But then, wouldn't you know it, hubby gets a bullet in the brain, and the spin-the-bottle of blame points right at Hap.

This one's twisty. When the guys think they have a line on a character's motivations, it all flies apart like a tar paper shack in a hurricane. Unexplained bodies show up, lies reveal more lies, and the Dixie Mafia come to collect a debt that can only be paid in blood.

With all this almost-real detective work the guys wade eyeball-deep into, not to mention the low page-count, there's little room for the lighthearted rambling asides that made me fall in love with Lansdale in the first place. There's some, but it's like a fun size Snickers bar when you what you really crave is an entire Snickers pie topped with smaller, bite sized pies. That's my only criticism of this book: it's just too damn short. Which was why I was thrilled to pick up the other novella...


Hyenas by Joe R. Lansdale

This one comes chronologically before Dead Aim, but I read it second. I'm glad I did, because it's the better of the two. The stakes are higher and more personal for Hap, and the emotional hooks sunk right into me. Plus the conversations are allowed to drift a little more in this volume, and Lansdale's hard-edge country whit shines through.

It starts, as Hap and Leonard stories often do, with Hap bailing Leonard out of some trouble his rage and rash decisions have gotten him into. This time, Leonard has whipped up on a couple dudes and lodged another head-first into the wall of a local bar. Seems these fellows made the mistake of speaking the n- and f-words in Leonard's direction. Stir a nest of copperheads with a short stick, and you get pretty much the same result.

One of those unlucky bastards comes limping back to ask Leonard a favor. His kid brother is in tight with some scary guys, and he believes Leonard, being even scarier, might could encourage his brother to walk a straighter path. Hap and Leonard, being the rough and tumble do-gooders they are, agree to help and devise this plan: 1. Walk in. 2. Beat up some guys. As detailed a plan as that is, it still goes bad.

We get gun fights, fist fights, a bank robbery, light aircraft action, gangsters, a pancake breakfast. At barely more than a hundred pages, the only things this book leaves out are the boring parts. Hey, there's even a bonus short story at the end about which I will say nothing, except that it is fantastic, deep, and haunting.


Dead Aim: a business card for an auto mechanic's shop

buisness card from Brakes Etc.

I wanted a symbol of masculinity, and this was the best I could find laying around on my desk. Look back at the book cover; the only truly appropriate thing would be a gun.

Hyenas: a gun

Winchester card from BANG!

I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice. This is from a card game called BANG!. Searching for a suitable bookmark, I remembered that game was full of guns and outlaws, just the thing to keep my place while I sat the book down to answer the call of nature. By which I mean get into adventures and save people with my fists of writerly fury. The card proved to be a much more practical bookmark than my original choice.

a box cutter

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Chokes and Warbles
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Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing