Joe R. Lansdale

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine - Trouble magnets and amateur sleuth team - East Texas


"Captains Outrageous"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark DEC 27, 2001)

We ate Twinkies and cupcakes and even though Charlie had told Hanson about my adventure at the chicken plant, I told it again, then I told them about the cruise.

Charlie said, "Well, finally, you and Leonard are off to do something where the worst trouble you can get into is cutting a fart in the dining room."

"Yeah," I said. "Ain't it grand?"

Both Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are working as guards at a local poultry plant. By chance, after Leonard drops him off at his car, Hap hears a weak voice say help me and then "a whimper, as if a puppy were dying under an automobile tire." When he turns on his truck lights, he's horrified. A man is stomping on a young girl beyond the chain link fence that surrounds the parking lot. Hap has a gun, but isn't willing to pull it out "I'd done that thing already and was wearing scars from that, filling my head nightly with dark bad dreams." So he climbs over the fence and he proceeds to fight with the assailant and it's one nasty fight.

As it turns out he does save the girl, although she will be permanently disfigured, and her father offers him a check for hundred thousand dollars and tells him and Leonard to take a month off from work. He owns the chicken factory.

Hap is feeling guilty about taking either the money or the time off, it makes him feel more mercenary than heroic. Leonard, who's done nothing, is ready for a real vacation. It's Leonard's new boyfriend, John that comes up with the idea that Hap and Leonard should take a cruise. Sort of be "cruise guinea pigs" to find out what's it like so maybe Leonard will take him on one in the future. Since not much is happening between Hap and his girlfriend, Brett Sawyer, "Unspoken, we bled sex out of our relationship, and pretty soon we bled the relationship out of it," Hap agrees that maybe a cruise would be the thing to do.

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are two people you would NOT want to go on vacation with. Actually, the way people die around them, I'm not sure I would want to be their friends either. Sufficient to say, their holiday is cut short and they find themselves stranded in Mexico where they come across thug cops, are saved by a geriatric fisherman and Hap gets tangled with the fisherman's gorgeous daughter. Finally a posse of Texans has to go to Mexico to save them. But the danger doesn't let up when they get home.

Trying not to give anything away while writing this review is difficult. I can't tell you about one of the plot twist that I found very emotionally upsetting, attesting to Lansdale ability to get us attached to his characters. More so, the review is bound to sound flat since it's not the story line itself that is the attraction, but the way that the story is told and the dialog of the characters, especially when Hap and Leonard get going.

And in case you don't go on to read the review of Bad Chili, let me tell you this about Hap and Leonard. Hap Collins is a white heterosexual pacifist (who isn't afraid to fight), while Leonard Pine is black, homosexual, and with a proud, hot temper. Both are Texans to the teeth and as close as brothers. And if you haven't guessed it, when the two of them are together they are regular trouble magnets. I should also warn you that these two are crude and rude, but hilarious.

If you don't mind it a little raunchy, I highly recommend this series. I devoured Captains Outrageous within a day of receiving it. If you want to wait for this book to come out in paperback, then I recommend that you start working your way through the earlier ones. I plan to back track a bit and catch up before the next one comes out! Having tried two out of five, I'm addicted.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 21 reviews
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"Bad Chili"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark OCT 21, 2001)

"The happy feeling that wrestled with the dread was due to the fact that I was home, free of the offshore drilling job where I had for months served as a heavy oiler, which is a glorified title for an idiot who pours oil onto machinery. I hated the work and vowed never to do it again. I also vowed, for the umpteenth time, to change my life. To find something better, to finally prepare for the future. Which considering half my life was over, might not be a bad idea. Perhaps, if I had real plans, I could begin to think of my glass as half full, instead of half empty. Or half empty with a bug in the bottom."

Hap Collins is home again, listening to his best friend Leonard Pine tell about his latest boyfriend troubles as they share a revolver to take potshots at cans in a friend's pasture. Leonard is telling Hap how Raul and him have been fighting (nothing new) and Raul walked out on him (again nothing new) but this time Raul hasn't returned and instead has taken up with a leather-clad Harley rider. This is a far as the conversation gets when a rabid skunk comes bounding out of the woods, and after much drama, takes a bite out of Hap's arm.

Hap ends up in the hospital. Not because he's ill, but because his doctor wants to make sure he gets paid for giving Hap his rabies shots. As it turns out, Hap's insurance coverage incurs less out of pocket expenses if Hap is treated in the hospital then if he takes his shots in the doctors office. But as Hap says, "a hospital is dangerous to your health" and he immediately catches a cold. Plus he's bored. And mad. His best buddy Leonard hasn't come by to visit him all day, nor is he even home, despite repeated calls to his house. Finally, that evening his friend Charlie Blank, recently promoted to lieutenant on the LaBorde police force, comes by to visit him as a friend and to give him some real food -- hamburger, fries and a malt.

By this time, Hap is fairly worried about Leonard and his state of mind. Between him and Leonard, Leonard's the more aggressive one. But Leonard's fuse is shorter than usual, even causing him to lose a job as a bouncer when after playing Ping-Pong with a would-be troublemaker's head, "he'd flopped his tool and pissed on the rowdy's head." This is excessive even for Leonard. Between Leonard's recent behavior and him not even visiting Hap in the hospital, Hap's worried. So he asks Charlie to check up on Leonard. Second day in the hospital neither Leonard nor Charlie visit him. But that night the nurse on duty, who is slim, pretty, and with "hair a little too red" and "legs that would have made the pope abuse himself in the Vatican toilet and maybe not feel too bad about it," comes to take his temp. Seems that Nurse Brett Sawyer is just his type of woman, one of whom "cussing seemed to be her life." And rumor has it she likes him too.

Next day, Charlie comes back with news that Raul's biker friend has been found dead from a shotgun blast, that Leonard's special occasion twelve-gauge shotgun is missing form his home (along with Leonard), and that earlier a black dude beat up a biker at The Blazing Wheel biker bar and shot the neon out of the Blazing Wheel sign, again with a twelve-gauge shotgun. Hap pleads with Charlie to hold off drawing conclusions until he's had a chance to find Leonard and talk to him. Charlie gives him twenty-four hours. Hap decides to make a temporary break from his hospital bed to help clear his best friend's name, but plans to get back in time for his rabies shot. And thus begins an adventure resulting in more dead bodies, some illicit videos, LaBorde's Chili King, grease snatching, a very unpleasant experience with ice and a car battery, one P.I. badass called Jim Bob Luke, and a new love interest for Hap in a certain red headed nurse with one heck of a past.

The plot is screwy yet credible, gripping in a funny, folksy way and the characters are irresistible. Trouble magnets Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are best of friends, as near to brothers as possible without having the same parents. Hap Collins is white and straight, Leonard Pine is black and gay. Hap's a pacifist, Leonard is, clearly, not. But between the two is a mixture of toughness, passion and friendship that clearly defines them as the good guys. These east Texans offer up some spicy dialogue as they try to connect the pieces between Raul, the biker and the Chili King. All in all, they get themselves into some real bad chili.

When I picked up this book, I had a vague notion that I had recently heard of this author. Then while putting together the new George C. Chesbro review, I saw the connection with Lansdale. Like Chesbro, Lansdale has a cult following. And the two authors seem to share a similar audience. I also found it surprising how much Lansdale has written. This guy is so prolific and varied, it would be amazing if his name hadn't seemed familiar. Either way, I'm really glad I picked up Bad Chili. There's something really special about this series where a black, homosexual guy can come off just as everyday normal as his counterpart white, straight friend. But more than that, it's fun reading done in the best tradition of the first person hard-boiled narration but with a down home Texan twist.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 24 reviews

Read an excerpt from Bad Chili at The Zero



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Hap Collins / Leonard Pine series:

Short Story Collections:

Written as Jack Buchanan (The Mark Stone Mia Hunter series)

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Joe R. LansdaleJoe R. Lansdale was born in 1951 in Gladewater, Texas. He wrote his first paid published piece at the age of 21, a non-fiction article coauthored with his mother. It won a prize for best letter article. He continued to write articles and then in the mid-seventies he began to sell fiction.

Now, with more than twenty books and 200 short stories to his credit, Lansdale is considered the champion Mojo storyteller. He's been called "the Stephen King of Texas" by Texas Monthly; "an immense talent" by Booklist; "a born storyteller" by Robert Bloch; and The New York Times Book Review declares he has "a folklorist's eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur's sense of pace." He's won many awards, including five Bram Stoker horror awards, a British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Horror Critics Award, the "Shot in the Dark" International Crime Writer's award, the Booklist Editor's Award, the Critic's Choice Award, and a New York Times Notable Book award. His novel, The Bottoms, won the 2001 Edgar Awards for Best Novel.

Joe Lansdale is also a martial artist for over 35 years and an Inductee into the INTERNATIONAL MARTIAL ARTS HALL OF FAME as Founder / Grandmaster of Shen Chuan and certified Ninth Degree Black Belt by the World Martial Arts Alliance. Lansdale has also been inducted into the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame as well, and is a multiple black belt holder.

Lansdale lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, with his wife, Karen, writer and editor. They have a son and daughter.

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