Born For Trouble: The Further Adventures Of Hap And Leonard by Joe R Lansdale (cri-fi book review).

‘Born For Trouble: The Further Adventures Of Hap And Leonard’ is a collection of five stories featuring Joe Lansdale’s east Texas based private investigators, now on television! All these stories are narrated first person by Hap, an ageing white man with liberal views, not fond of guns and killing, married to Brett, a red-haired beauty and with a daughter called Chance that he didn’t meet until she was grown-up. Hap’s best friend, like a brother, is Leonard, a gay black Republican voter who loves guns. They all work for Brett’s detective agency but Hap and Leonard do most of the investigating.

It isn’t fantasy or Science Fiction or horror, not supernatural horror anyway, but there’s plenty of real life horror. Hap and Leonard meet child killers, rapists, murderers and even encounter bestiality. Adult themes, I believe they call it, so not for those of gentle disposition. Agatha Christie it ain’t. These five stories were originally published in various other places between 2016-2019 and are gathered here for your enjoyment.

Lansdale doesn’t plot but makes it up as he goes along, putting the boys in trouble and then trying to get them out of it. In ‘Coco-Butternut’, they are approached by Jimmy Farmer to pay a ransom for a dead dog. Why would anyone pay half a million bucks for a dead dog? Hap and Leonard’s curiosity nearly gets them killed.

‘Hoodoo Harry’ was a lady called Harriet who drove a library bus out to poor black communities but she and the bus vanished a while back. Hap and Leonard meet it when they’re coming back from a fishing trip. It’s driven badly by a beat-up black kid and crashes into them. Further investigation leads them to some very nasty goings on out in the boondocks and results in an ethical clash between our heroes about how to deal with bad guys. I side with Leonard in cases like this.

‘Sad Onions’ is the name for a vegetable crisp made from onions. On the way back from another fishing trip, Hap nearly runs over a blonde lady in the road. There has been a car crash. Her husband Frank Parker, the wealthy inventor and manufacturer of Sad Onions is dead. Suspicious circumstances lead Hap and Leonard into even more trouble.

In ‘The Briar Patch Boogie’, while on another fishing trip, way out in swamps near Louisiana, the boys encounter a woman being hunted. She has an arrow in her and has been beaten and raped. Just some good ol’ boys having fun. Is it time for Hap and Leonard to give up fishing? This is particularly grim. Lansdale admits in his introduction that when people think of Texas they think of trigger-happy rednecks toting guns but assures us there are plenty of other types there as well.

‘Cold Cotton’ begins amusingly with Hap having erectile dysfunction. Sex and beautiful women are often discussed in the stories, usually in a light-hearted way, but there are no graphic descriptions. Anyway, Hap’s doctor thinks his problem is psychiatric, caused by the stress of his job and recommends a headshrinker. Carol Cotton is a beautiful psychiatrist with inherited money who lives in a high walled mansion with some Mexican servants and a mad nymphomaniac niece. She’s been getting murder threats and blackmail, too. Hap and Leonard get involved and there’s more trouble. But trouble is their business.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Born For Trouble: The Further Adventures Of Hap And Leonard’ just as I enjoy most of Lansdale’s work. It isn’t the plots, which are pretty formulaic and not especially clever for the detective genre. In two stories, the murderers give themselves away by mentioning something that wasn’t in the information released to the press. However, with such a great cast of characters exchanging sparkling dialogue and rude similes that make you laugh out loud, who cares about the plot? Raymond Chandler didn’t and, like him, Lansdale’s carries you along with his writing. Recommended but with the caveat about rude words and grisly violence. I believe fans of Joe R Lansdale are accustomed to all those things.

Eamonn Murphy

March 2020

(pub: Tachyon Publications, 2022. 310 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $16.95 (US), £12.86 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61696-370-5. eBook Price: $ 6.77 US), £ 5.19 (UK).

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