Of Mice and Minestrone by Joe R. Lansdale (A Hap and Leonard: The Early Years collection)
English | 2020 | Mystery & Thriller | ePUB | 3.0 MB
Today’s Special: Justice, East Texan-Style
Hap Collins looks like a good ol’ boy. But even in his misspent youth, his best pal is Leonard Pine, who is black, gay, and the ultimate outsider. Inseparable friends, Hap and Leonard climb into the boxing ring, visit their families, get in bar fights, and just go fishing—all the while confronting racists, righting wrongs, and eating a whole lot of delicious food.
So pull up a seat and sit a spell. Master storyteller Joe R. Lansdale—along with Kasey Lansdale’s down-home recipes and Kathleen Kent’s introduction—has cooked up a new passel of tales for you about the unlikeliest duo East Texas has to offer, created by his own self.
Western writer J. Frank Dobie said at the beginning of his novel Coronado’s Children, “These tales are not creations of mine. They belong to the soil and to the people of the soil.” Joe R. Lansdale, one of the most prolific and natural-born storytellers I’ve ever known, seems to summon up his far-ranging narratives not so much from the heady ether of the Literary Muses, but from the Martian-red dirt of East Texas.
He’s written at least forty-five novels, thirty short story collections, many chapbooks and comic book adaptations, but while I’ve spent several weeks reading this newest collection of early Hap and Leonard stories, Of Mice and Minestrone, there’s a good chance he’s published even more. Some of Joe’s awards include ten Bram Stoker Awards, a British Fantasy Award, an Edgar Award for The Bottoms, and a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award. There are many other awards, both national and international. He’s been inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame, and several of his novels and short stories have been adapted to film.
I’d already been a fan of his, especially of his darkly majestic novel The Bottoms, but I’d never met him until we were on book tour together and at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. We shared the same publisher, and he’d just launched Rusty Puppy, number twelve in the Hap and Leonard series. I found to my delight that his growing up in East Texas mirrored a lot of my own childhood experiences, including the Piney Woods lexicon of Guns, God, and Grits (and usually in that order). Shared also was the frequently challenging work of rising out of the black tar of, as Joe would put it, “not being poor, just broke,” and of subsequently being rescued by books, reading, and writing.
This new collection of Hap and Leonard stories takes the duo back to their youth, and illuminates, on a very personal level, the origins of their friendship. Sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious, the stories may not be completely autobiographical, but there is a strong thread of authenticity in the development of Joe’s characters. The people he writes about who inhabit the sometimes-fictional towns behind the Pine Curtain feel real. The reader loves Hap and Leonard because Joe Lansdale loves them. They bleed, and sweat, and make love, and do actual work. And even the most despicable of the villains in the series are lovingly drawn, even if they are developed with a very dark, nightmarish ink.