A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the first two seasons of Sundance TV's Hap and Leonard had showed up on Netflix—Canadian Netflix even!—and I decided since I’d read and appreciated most of what Joe Lansdale's work I’d read that I’d give the show a go. I’m not at all a TV guy. I watch maybe an hour of TV shows a week and those are pretty much re-runs of the monster and spook one-offs I liked as a kid. Sure, I accidentally watched the entire series Mindhunter in a day and I enjoyed Trapped over a couple weeks, hell, I almost made it through the second season of Stranger Things, but most often I watch a half-episode of something and head back to the bookshelf because the thought and originality just isn’t there.
Starting Hap and Leonard had me doing that, but for a completely different reason.
The series opens with a bang. The best way to start a story is at the beginning of the action, so that makes sense. Really, a story only starts where something is happening. Money and blood, oh so tantalizing. The episode then moved onto the subjects, a revealing but subtle introduction of two men. Pretty standard, though the subtlety was intriguing.
The men then entered a grocery store and the exchange therein had me questioning my decision to watch, instead of reading first. Hap was short at the till and Leonard handed over a mitt full of change, they offered each other some smart words and that was it.
But it wasn’t really.
One of my pet peeves in film, TV, and books is poorly written lower social classes of first world people. My ilk. This exchange smacked of authenticity and honesty. So much so that I took to Twitter and announced that no way was I watching a show with writing this good before I read the books.
Of course I was misunderstood and had to explain my point so as to not seem like a troll. Twitter, can’t help but bother to blurt snippets of thought and then backpedal for clarity.
Anyway, living where I do, my online purchases takes a while to arrive. Joe Lansdale’s Savage Season finally landed on my porch in a box (alongside Mucho Mojo and, wholly unrelated, I‘ll be Gone in the Dark) two weeks after I’d ordered them… pretty standard. I was in the middle of King’s Insomnia and then had an interview scheduled with Alison Littlewood in coming days, meaning The Crow Garden came next, but then it was time to see if my fuss was worth what I’d hoped.
Well I opened the book, read and read, and damn, the grocery store scene that had me questioning watching instead of reading first wasn’t even there! That’s almost enough to make you laugh.
However, what was in Savage Season was an absolute thrill ride with rich characters and humanity oozing in nearly every other line and just about as much between those lines. Boy oh boy was I hooked right away.
I’m not as versed in crime stories as horror or even general fiction, but I’ve tackled a number probably inching close to one hundred books—Block’s Not Comin’ Home to You, Oates’ The Corn Maiden, Jones’ Not for Nothing, and Hammett’s Red Harvest among my favorites of crime tales… that I recall without pondering too, too hard—and I think it’s safe for me to say that Savage Season is the best crime novel that I’ve ever read.
Now I’m presented with a new quandary: could the show possibly hold up? Geez that’s a tough thought for me, I’ve steered clear of 11/22/63 because of it. And yet, if it’s half as steady for the rest of the series as it was for the first ten minutes I saw, I’m fully willing to take that gamble.
So I suppose this will be a multiple part post as I can’t imagine a world where I’m still kicking and not continuing with this series, books first and sometime shortly I'll resume that initial episode.