JOE R. LANSDALE – Mucho Mojo. Hap Collins & Leonard Pine #1 [actually #2; see below]. CD Publications, hardcover, limited edition, 1994. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1995. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, softcover, 2009. TV: Reportedly serves as the basis for Season Two of the Hap and Leonard television series (Sundance, 2016-2018).

   Lansdale is well-known (at least to Bill Crider and me), but primarily for horror, in which field he’s a multiple award winner. This is his first “traditional” crime novel to my knowledge. Mysterious thinks it’s a breakout.

   Hap Collins is white, fortyish, and working in the rose fields of East Texas. Leonard Pine is black, the same, and gay (but not very cheerful) on top of it. They’re tighter than ticks on the proverbial redbone, and Leonard has a bad leg gotten saving Hap’s life during some shady doings.

   They are sort of drifting along when Leonard’s Uncle Chester dies and leaves him a hundred grand and his house, which changes a lot of things. They discover that Uncle Chester was going senile before he died, and had hinted to the local police that somebody was murdering black children. Then, while putting his house in shape, they dicover a bunch of kiddie porn magazines and dig up the bones of a 10-year-old child buried in a box under the floor.

   The police think Uncle Chester did it, but Leonard doesn’t believe it, so he and Hap begin to dig deeper. So to speak.

   This is an entertaining book, and Hap and Leonard are interesting and refreshingly different characters. I don’t know that they’re all that believable; 40-year-old field hands with as much on the ball as our dynamic duo strike me as more than a little unlikely, but hey it;s a story, right?

   And a good one, too. Lansdale knows how to spin a yarn. He’s got a good East Texas “voice”, and Hap narrates the story effectively, with a fair share of quips and country sayin’s. There’s a lot of dialogue, and not much of the brooding atmosphere you might expect from Lansdale. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but you won’t know if it’s yours ’til you try a sip.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.

The Hap Collins & Leonard Pine series —

1. Savage Season (1990)

2. Mucho Mojo (1994)
3. The Two-Bear Mambo (1995)
4. Bad Chili (1997)
5. Rumble Tumble (1998)

6. Captains Outrageous (2001)
7. Vanilla Ride (2009)
8. Devil Red (2011)
9. Honky Tonk Samurai (2016)
10. Rusty Puppy (2017)
11. Jackrabbit Smile (2018)

Bibliographic Notes: Unknown to Barry, who described this as the first in the series, there was one that had come out four years earlier, that being Savage Season, published by Mark V. Ziesing, a small press publisher based in California. Barry also seems to have assumed that the first edition of Mucho Mojo was done by Mysterious Press, but another small outfit called CD Publications, based in Baltimore, gets credit for that.