The amazing thing about Joe R. Lansdale's SAVAGE SEASON (1990), the first Hap and Leonard novel, is that there were any more Hap and Leonard adventures, given the number and severity of injuries these two endure during the book's third act, a brutal, blood soaked showdown that plays like something out of a Sam Peckinpah film.
And that's a good thing.
Hap Collins and Leonard Pines are a noir odd couple, two anti-heroes who nonetheless end up on the side of good more often than not. Hap is a disillusioned sixties radical with no causes left to fight for except his own well being. Leonard, a Vietnam veteran, is gay and black. The two are fast friends and best buds who bicker back and forth constantly, trading insults and verbal jabs in the way that only two truly good friends can do.
They're making ends meet in the small east Texas town of LaBorde, working in the rose fields and enjoying a laid back lifestyle. But trouble rears its' ugly head in the form of the beautiful Trudy, Hap's ex-wife. She comes to town still hot-to-trot for Hap and seduces him into a scheme to recover some lost loot, supposedly hidden in a sunken boat in a creek somewhere deep in the woods. Trudy has thrown in with some other post sixties idealists who want the money (from a bank robbery gone bad) to finance their latest social justice cause. Hap and Leonard just want their cut of the loot for themselves. The money is found and the tables are turned as it's revealed that Trudy and her pals need the money to buy guns and ammo so they can go on a crime spree of their own.
But there's yet another reversal of fortune when the gun dealer, Soldier, turns out to be a stone cold psycho who will kill each and every one of them, including Hap and Leonard, in his quest to get all of the money for himself.
Lansdale builds the tension slowly and surely and then let's everything explode in a wild climax that includes a nail hammered into a woman's hand, multiple gunshots, shovels to heads and more. Along the way he gives us sharp, terrific, hilarious dialogue, well drawn characters, a strong sense of place, a truly scary villain and ruminations and regrets over lost loves and causes.
SAVAGE SEASON was both a critical and commercial success and Lansdale has gone on to turn out several more Hap and Leonard adventures. But this is where it all began in all its' blood drenched glory. A first rate page turner that mixes filthy humor and oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-he-did-that horror, SAVAGE SEASON is highly recommended.