Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale

imageThis would make an excellent television series.

I think there is one in the works, or there may be one already airing by now.

This is the first time I have spent a book with Joe R. Lansdale’s duo, Hap and Leonard.  Hap is a perpetually down-on-his-luck, sometime oil rig worker with an acerbic wit and a take-it-as-comes attitude.  Imagine a different Dude who used to drink, has a modicum of ambition and a slight drawl.  Leonard, Hap’s lifelong best friend, is a gay African-American who works as a bouncer in the local biker bars.

Not what I was expecting, either.

Mr. Lansdale’s Texas is not exactly a land of tolerance–the plot here features a criminal network selling videotapes of gay-bashings–but the picture he paints is rosier than I was expecting, maybe too much so.  This is the Texas of Ann Richards and Molly Ivans, not Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.  (Or it could be that all I know about Texas come from reading Larry McMurtry novels, so what do I know?)  But, I was willing to play along for the fun of it; Hap and Leonard are certainly fun to spend time with.  The jokes keep flying, the dialogue entertains and if the characters are sometimes a bit hard to believe, in I wanted to believe in them most of the time.

imageThe only problem I really had with the book is just how darn talky it is.  There’s a lot of dialogue, mostly fun reading, I’ll grant, but much more than the story really needs.  This would have made for perfect airplane reading, just the thing I need for my up-coming four hour flight to Chicago this summer, but it became a bit much here.  Still, with some judicious editing, it would make for a very good television show.  Could be something of a Texan Rockford Files in the right hands.

Too bad Jim Garner’s not around anymore.  In his younger days he would have been perfect for Hap.



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