The Big Idea: Joe R. Lansdale

Frankly put, Joe R. Lansdale is an American literary treasure, and his characters Hap and Leonard are a substantial portion of the reason why this is so. So a collection of Hap and Leonard stories? Yes, sir, more please, sir. Here’s Lansdale talking about his collection Born for Trouble, and where he, and his characters, might go next.


So one day, way back in time, I’m sitting around thinking, what do I write next? All I knew was I wanted to write a crime novel, and for some time I had wanted to write a straight novel about the late sixties, early seventies, but couldn’t come up with the right vehicle. The crime novel had to come first, due to a deadline, so I thought, well, just start something.

This is my normal way to begin a novel. I take an interesting sentence, and proceed. Every morning when I get up (or most) the story is there, unfolding for me. My subconscious is doing all the work, and I’m recording the results. My subconscious is a tricky creature, and even though it was providing me with a novel idea, it was also proving anxious to deal with that sixties business, so it all came together in Savage Season, the first Hap and Leonard novel.

I thought it was the only Hap and Leonard that would ever exist. In fact, Leonard was originally supposed to be pretty much a walk-on character. But the two met, and their past jumped out of my subconscious, and before I knew it I had characters who would return some years later, and a series would begin. Actually, I didn’t know it was a series until the second book, Mucho Mojo.

Those two characters have allowed me to visit all manner of storylines, social problems, and so on. Those books allowed me to take characters with different political views, personal views and different tastes, and show how they fit together, because they are brothers at the core. But sometimes they are less socially involved, and have what can only be called straight-forward adventures. Action, adventure, an almost folklore like element about the characters, is always there, but over the years I’ve written several straight forward action-adventure novellas starring the boys, and though their quirky characteristics were still on board, and there were tinges of mystery and so on, they were a lesser element, and it was just the boys and forward movement.

Those stories have a spotted history, appearing here and there. Tada. They have been collected and can be read in one volume titled, Born For Trouble. Tada again.  If these characters are new to you, it’s a good way to get a taste of Hap and Leonard. Tachyon has published several volumes of Hap and Leonard stories and novellas, and if you get a kick out of these, you can check out the others, including stories that go back to Hap and Leonard’s childhood and teenage years. It amazes me that they became series characters at all. It amazes me they are so beloved. It amazes me that they were the source for the Sundance—now available on Netflix–series Hap And Leonard.

These two guys had been boiling around in my head for years, and I didnt’ even know it. Not consciously. Then I had  the right catalyst. A deadline. That’s what got them started. That was nearly thirty years ago. Boy, have they been fun to write about.

I haven’t written a novel length Hap and Leonard tale in a while, but dealing with this volume has sort of “seeded’ the sourdough, so to speak, and I may dive back into their world any day. And if you don’t know about sourdough and sourdough starter, look it up.

So, off to the races, dive deep into the wilds of East Texas and keep your eyes over, and expect the unexpected.

You might like to bring some Dr. Pepper and Vanilla cookies with you for snacks. Leonard usually has some on hand, but I warn you, he does not like to share.

Born for Trouble: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

8 Comments on “The Big Idea: Joe R. Lansdale”

  1. I think Hap et alia showed up in the Rogues short story collection, and were a fun read. I’ll check it out, though I still don’t like being reminded of what living in tx is like.

  2. Well, now I’m missing Michael K Williams all over again. I’ll just have to grab this book and find out what else Leonard (and Hap) get themselves into.

  3. I watched the series on AMC (I think) and quite enjoyed it. Haven’t read the books yet. Anyone have an opinion on how different the books are from the series?

  4. The series was faithful to the books, though not necessarily slavishly so. The first season was based on the first Hap & Leonard book &c., through the third and final season. In my opinion Sundance should have committed to making a season out of all 12 of the novels

  5. I have been a fan of Lansdale’s short stories since I first read them in the old “Twilight Zone Magazine” decades ago. I reccommend them highly!

  6. Michael, I loved the series, but in my opinion the relationship between the two was much more rich in the book. I mean, that’s mostly the nature of the written word, where you get inside the character’s head more. Well, at least in Hap’s head, because he is our window. The books are also a lot funnier. I really enjoy Lansdale’s sense of humour. I am always delighted with his books, so I absolutely recommend them.

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