Me and Hap and Leonard go way back. I discovered the work of Joe R. Lansdale in 1988, when The Drive-In was originally published. I became an instant fan. For the next couple of years I enjoyed the first Drive-In sequel, a collection called By Bizarre Hands, and various short stories I was able to locate in magazines and anthologies.

I remember being really excited when I heard about two new suspense novels coming up. Both had intriguing titles: Cold In July and Savage Season. Cold In July came first, and it marked a new depth in Joe's writing. Then came Savage Season, which I read in a very cool paperback from Bantam Books. The cover alone was enough to scare off overly sensitive readers.

I loved both books. Cold In July is arguably the better novel, but Savage Season had a couple of unforgettable characters named Hap and Leonard. I remember thinking it would be nice to see them appear again in another book.

Well, obviously I did see more Hap and Leonard. Joe has returned to them again and again, delighting and outraging a legion of readers. I've read them all and I've never been disappointed. Hap and Leonard have become like old friends.

There have been books, collections of short fiction, a TV series. Now we have a new volume of stories called Born For Trouble: The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard.

I had previously read the first two pieces in small press publications, but that did not stop me from enjoying them again. The rest were new to me. No surprise, I loved them all.

The Hap and Leonard fiction is, first and foremost, entertainment. Joe always gives his readers a good time, with bountiful humor, explosive action, and moral ambiguities. But there is subtext in the works. Inequality, loyalty, and modern frontier justice are themes explored throughout the history of the characters.

I've always loved series fiction. The thing about it is, you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. From Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Doc Savage to the Nameless Detective and Repairman Jack, I've overlooked discrepancies in credibility. Take Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective. The first book came out in 1971. There were a few short stories before that. In '71 Nameless was a middle aged private detective. He was still a middle aged private detective forty six years later when the final book came out.

The same goes for Hap and Leonard. They would have aged a lot more in the thirty two years the series has been around. In the Introduction to Born For Trouble Joe says this bothers some readers a lot. Me, I easily overlook petty details like that, and jump on board for the ride every time new stories come along.

Fans of the series, and there are a lot of us, are going to love Born For Trouble. It could bring about a whole new audience. However, I'd recommend the uninitiated to go back and start with Savage Season. Few have resisted the lure of reading all the Hap and Leonard books Joe R. Lansdale has written.

Born For Trouble provides readers some short, spicy bites to hold us over until we get another full-length Hap and Leonard novel. Then there are Joe's other books, all of which are well worth your time and money.

Written by Mark Sieber

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