I’m going to start this review with a short digression. Somewhere near the turn of this new century I walked into my local Half Price Books with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I had a plan—rather than choosing back catalog books from one or more of my go-to authors, I would expand my horizons with someone new to me.
I walked out of the store that day with four books. Strega and Blue Belle by Andrew Vachss, and Mucho Mojo and Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale. To say these books were revelations to me would not be overstating it. With Vachss’ Burke, I got hard-nosed noir as black as a moonless night, unflinching in their depiction of the horrors people are capable of, particularly against children. With Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard, I was introduced to pure, unfiltered mojo storytelling. From that day on I would seek out and read every book by them I could get my hands on. When I found out later that the two men were friends, I wasn’t surprised. Both men were uncompromising and unapologetic in their approach to writing and life. Sadly, Vachss passed away not long ago, which I found out in a post from Lansdale. The world of crime fiction has lost a giant.
Now back to our regularly scheduled review! Born for Trouble is a new collection of Hap and Leonard stories, which is always cause for celebration. Unlike the past couple of collections, which focused on the boy’s early years, the stories in Born for Trouble cover Hap and Leonard in their later, more mature years. Don’t panic, mature refers only to their age. They are still, for the most part, the same shit-talking, shit-kicking badasses you know and love. Hap may be coming to terms with married life and fatherhood, and he’s a little less quick to pull the trigger, but he’s still tough as nails. And Leonard is still Leonard, just as volatile, just as willing to fuck shit up.
As far as the stories go, this is a book of crime fiction, and there are few better than Lansdale. In several of them, Hap and Leonard are working as private investigators, with Hap’s wife Brett. His adult daughter Chance is along for the ride as well. They are often working with, and sparring with, their friend Marvin Hanson, the police chief of LaBorde, Texas. There are murders aplenty here, colorfully corrupt characters, and the sort of wall to wall mayhem and adventures Hap and Leonard always seem to fall into.
I had read several of these stories before as Kindle singles, and I didn’t mind rereading them a bit. Lansdale is a master storyteller. Settling down with this collection is like getting together with old, cherished friends—the kind of friends who you just know are going to get you in trouble, and you just don’t care.
Born for Trouble will be released March 21, 2022. This one’s a must-have.