Sunday, July 13, 2008

Who would play them in a movie?

I've spent the last few days with my face buried in Joe R. Lansdale's Mucho Mojo book.

My wife always gives me a suspicious look when I use hyperbole and say something like, "now this is the best book I've read in five damn years!" Still, this time I mean it. This is one book that I will actually recommend to others to read, and that says a lot. You see, I'm a relatively slow reader. Always have been. Hell, I'm a prolific reader--just slow, like a big farm tractor pullin' a hay wagon down the highway and pissin' everyone off. So I don't really enjoy it much when someone tells me I "just have to read" a certain book. I think, well, if I have to read it that will keep me busy for a week or so. So I try not to tell people that they "have to" read anything.

But you have to read this book! It's that good.

Let's look at what makes this such a great book--and I'll do this without any real spoilers.

Setting. A poor black neighborhood in an East Texas town, with a crack house next door that seems to have evolved its own ecosystem.

Characters. Hap Collins, a crusty old Vietnam war protester and his sarcastic friend, Leonard Pine. These guys are classic. I read this book not knowing there are already five more "Hap and Leonard" books. I can see why. These characters are just too good to not use again and again.

Early in the book they attend a funeral. Having no good suits to wear, they go shopping at JC Penny. They get all dressed up and then ride in Leonard's big car, without air conditioning, through the humidity of East Texas. By the time they arrive they're all greasy and sweaty and cussing at each other about their lack of fashion sense. Really funny stuff.

Plot. This book would still be a classic on setting and character alone, but the plot is wonderfully suspensefull and also disturbing: someone is murdering children in this small town, wrapping them up in porno magazines and burrying them. Terrible. Sick. Nothing new here, as there are just too many disturbing thrillers out there, but this one beautifully walks that thin line that many novels must walk: only in the midst of true suffering can we appreciate true love and true friendship.

What a book.

[The title for this post comes from a comment by my wife. I was telling her some of the funny parts and reading a few quotes to her by Hap and Leonard. She asked me, "so who would you get to play them in a movie?" I won't answer that--as it would influence how you read the book--but it's a good question.]

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