HAP AND LEONARD: BLOOD AND LEMONADE by Joe R. Lansdale. Tachyon Publications (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2017, 230 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-61696-253-1. Click here to purchase.
Like Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” Lansdale has written this mosaic novel -- interconnected short stories that meld into a gestalted, arching storyline -- that details the very segmented and disjointed way that Hap and Leonard, friends just trying to stay out of trouble, met.
Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, blue-collar souls trying to stay behind the law, when they can, make a motley bunch, to say the least.
Here are stories that I found enjoyable:
“Parable of the Stick” is a tale in which Leonard recalls what happened to Hap on the day Hap decided he was not going to be bullied anymore.
“Tire Fire” portrays a time when Hap meets Leonard during a fistfight. And this one’s a classic.
Dealing with bullies is a big part of “Not Our Kind,” but avoiding getting hurt, courtesy of an intervening shop owner and his worker, will make you smile.
There are many recollections of Hap and Leonard’s past throughout the mosaic novel.
One is “The Boy Who Became Invisible,” about Jesse, a poor schoolboy, who only became what hate-filled and judgmental people at the school would make him be.
Here’s a tale of Hap as a kid: “Blood and Leonard.” In this, an abandoned black boy is taken in by Hap’s Mama. The poor kid literally has no place to go. But Mama is persistent and takes him to his family, where Hap learns about the violently dark racism in East Texas and how the hatred runs both ways.
Another dark recollection of the friendship of Hap and Leonard is the grisly and frightening “In the River of the Dead.” Hap and Leonard encounter some fishing problems on the dark river, and somehow uncover a sunken boat with bodies of a murdered family. Apparently Hap and Leonard have stumbled into a drug-deal-gone-wrong crime scene. For the friends, escape is possible, but there seems to be no escaping the rampant racism and psychopathic behavior of the perpetrators.
The violent and pervasive ugliness of the Deep South rears its ugly head again in a memory Hap has while driving to a burger joint, as a teenager, in “Stopping for Coffee.” This memory only haunts him because of what he should have done, or at least tried to do, to stave off senseless violence.
“Apollo Red” details how Hap remembers how his dad, a mechanic, encounters and stands up to a bully.
In “Coach Whip,” Hap remembers a time, long ago, when the family moved out of East Texas (in Lansdale’s tales, the scene is always set in his favorite locale, East Texas), into Arizona, and, after coming back from an old quarry swimming hole, Hap is chased by a snake all the way home. Hap learns a lot about snakes that are a danger and some that are simply hot air, or put another way, biteless and benign, just like some of the people Hap has come to know.
In “The Bottom of the World,” Hap’s father recalls a story of a dangerous river whirlpool and the soul of a woman murdered. What caused it?
In “Squirrel Hunt,” Hap recalls a tale of a man found either by reason of an accident with a shotgun, or murdered.
“The Oak and the Pond” is a present-day tale of Hap driving Leonard back from an event, thinking of how all the tall trees have disappeared -- been cut down -- and the land has become, sadly and dangerously, overdeveloped.
This mosaic could have been subtitled “Hap Collins and Leonard Pine: The Early Life.”