cover image The Two-Bear Mambo

The Two-Bear Mambo

Joe R. Lansdale. Mysterious Press, $28 (284pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-491-8

Veteran Lansdale brings back his incomparable Texas team of narrator Hap Collins and Leonard Pine for an encore that's just as funny and violent and gripping as their first appearance in Mucho Mojo. Police Lt. Marve Hanson agrees to forget the duo's role in the Christmas Eve torching of a crack house if they go to the small East-Texas town of Grovetown to find his girlfriend (also Hap's ex), lawyer Florida Grange, who was investigating the jailhouse death of a black man who possessed some valuable old blues recordings. The Klan is alive and well in Grovestown and Hap, who is white, and Leonard, who is black and gay and habitually introduces himself as ``The Smartest Nigger In The World,'' don't endear themselves to the locals. But they do track Florida to a dilapidated trailer park, where her trail ends. The conclusion, which involves a graveyard and an epic flood, is gruesome, frightening and captivating. Throughout, Lansdale intersperses some horrific and hilarious anecdotes (one is about a chihuahua that comes to a bad end: ``Yeeech,'' says Leonard. ``I'm just glad it wasn't a real dog''). This is strong stuff, filled with sexual references and violent racism. The mystery involves what happened to Florida and what happened to the dead man's music. But the heart of the tale is the friendship of Hap and Leonard, which is rendered by Lansdale in perfectly pitched, profanity-laced repartee and guided throughout by a strong moral compass. (Sept.)