18 May 2019

East Texas Tales, Part 2



by John M. Floyd



Have you ever discovered an author whose novels and stories you like so much you want to find and read everything he or she has written? I've found a few. Looking at the bookshelves in my home office, I can see just about every published piece of fiction by Carl Hiaasen, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Michael Crichton, Nevada Barr, Larry McMurtry, Nelson DeMille, Greg Iles, Thomas Harris, Stephen King, Arthur Hailey, Martin Cruz Smith, James Michener, John Grisham, and Ken Follett--and I have almost everything written by several others: Robert B. Parker, Colleen McCullough, John Sandford, Fredric Brown, Tom Clancy, Janet Evanovich, Dick Francis, Tom Wolfe, Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Frederick Forsyth, Lawrence Block, Scott Turow, and . . . Joe R. Lansdale.

I wrote a post about Joe Lansdale here at SleuthSayers four years ago, called "East Texas Tales," and talked about some of his books that I especially enjoyed. At the time I posted that column, though, I had not yet read most of the novels in his Hap and Leonard series, I had not yet seen any of the movie/TV adaptations of his work, and I had not yet met Lansdale himself. I've now done all three of those things, and my respect for him has continued to grow.

Pulpwood fiction

I can't remember where I first heard that term, but I recently found a blog called Pulpwood Fiction, and it defines PWF as "good old-fashioned noirish pulp fiction with a Southern twist." I think that's a good summary of the kind of stories Joe Lansdale writes. Most of his tales are set in rural eastern Texas, in and around the fictional town of LaBorde. My absolute favorite novels of his are standalones like The Bottoms (an Edgar Award winner), Edge of Dark Water, and The Thicket, but I also love his series of novels featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, two of the toughest and most interesting characters in modern crime fiction.


Without going into great detail, let me just say that Hap is a white, straight, liberal redneck who doesn't like violence and Leonard is a gay black Republican war veteran who doesn't like much of anything except Dr Pepper and vanilla cookies. These two have been best friends since childhood, and despite their mostly-good intentions and Hap's dislike of firearms they regularly wind up in deep trouble and have to shoot their way out.

So far, two feature films have been made from Lansdale's writing: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) with Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis and Cold in July (2014) with Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. Both movies are worth watching--and Bubba Ho-Tep is hilarious. There's also a Sundance TV series called Hap and Leonard, starring James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams. I've watched two of the three seasons of H&L and I'm about to start the third. Like his words on the page, Lansdale's movies and TV episodes are smart, funny, and action-packed.

Reading list

For those who might be interested, here's a fairly extensive Lansdale bibliography:

Standalone novels:

The Nightrunners (1987)
Cold in July (1989)
Freezer Burn (1999)
The Big Blow (2000)
The Bottoms (2000)
A Fine Dark Line (2002)
Sunset and Sawdust (2004)
Lost Echoes (2007)
All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky (2011)
Edge of Dark Water (2012)
The Thicket (2013)
Black Hat Jack (2014)
Paradise Sky (2015)

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine mysteries:

Savage Season (1990)
Mucho Mojo (1994)
The Two-Bear Mambo (1995)
Bad Chili (1997)
Rumble Tumble (1998)
Captains Outrageous (2001)
Vanilla Ride (2009)
Devil Red (2011)
Honky Tonk Samurai (2016)
Rusty Puppy (2017)
Jackrabbit Smile (2018)
The Elephant of Surprise (2019)

Short-story collections:

High Cotton (2000)
Bumper Crop (2004)
Mad Dog Summer (2004)
Hap and Leonard (2016)

I've left out a few items, but the ones listed above I can vouch for because I've read them and I have them lined up right here on my (groaning) shelves.

Coming up soon: the movie version of The Thicket, to be directed by Elliott Lester and starring Peter Dinklage.

I can't wait.




9 comments:

Lawrence Maddox said...

Great article, John! I agree, Lansdale should be required reading. And it's good to see Bubba Ho-Tep get some respect!

Jeff Baker said...

I stumbled across Lansdale about thirty years ago in the old "Twilight Zone Magazine." I love his short stories!

Lawrence Maddox said...

John, I meant to mention how you and Lansdale both placed awesome stories in Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror, just a few months ago.

John Floyd said...

Larry and Jeff -- Glad to hear you guys like Lansdale's writing. Jeff, I've read a lot of his short stories, but I didn't know about the old Twilight Zone Magazine.

Larry, thanks for the kind words--I'm pleased that you liked my story in the Pop the Clutch anthology. I too thought Lansdale's was great.

Eve Fisher said...

Wow! I'm going to have to get cracking on my reading. And I LOVE Bubba Ho-Tep so much. I told the guys at the pen about it, and now they're all scouring late-night TV for it.

O'Neil De Noux said...

Read a number of Landsdales.
I believe I've read all the books of a few writers.
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, J.D. Salinger.
Elmore Leonard and recently Adriana Trigiani, Ken Follett and Alexander Kent.
I like to skip around. Read a couple Willefords, John D. McDonald, Wambaugh, etc.

John Floyd said...

Eve, I also love Bubba Ho-Tep--what a great movie.

O'Neil, I'm close to having read all of Hemingway, and Fitzgerald too. Have NOT read Trigiani or Kent. And OMG I love John D. MacDonald. By the way, if you haven't seen Bubba Ho-Tep, I will pester you until you do.

Jeff Baker said...

John, you know Lansdale's story about his wife's popcorn? He says it gives him weird dreams, and he writes them up as stories! The ones in TZ Magazine were mostly popcorn stories and many of them have been reprinted.

John Floyd said...

Jeff, that's news to me. Guess I'll have to talk my wife into making me popcorn.