Lansdale’s ninth novel featuring Hap and Leonard, Honky Tonk Samurai (LB/Mulholland, Feb.), will be followed in March by his characters’ TV debut, Hap and Leonard, on the Sundance Channel.
Quite by accident I discovered Hap Collins, and quite on purpose a lot of him is me. He has ceased to age for the moment, and I have not, but our DNA, except for Hap’s fortunate ability to stay middle-aged for as long as he likes, remains quite similar. Leonard Pine, considerably less like me, also remains younger than me, and continually ornery.
Savage Season, the first Hap and Leonard novel, was meant to be a standalone, but Hap came back to me later with more adventures. I didn’t fight it. They have been at it more than 25 years now and are still going strong.
I used a lot of my background for Hap. He’s white, heterosexual, and has a lot of liberal leanings. I don’t have a gay, black, conservative friend exactly like Leonard, but I have many friends, white and black, similar to him—though at the time of creation, a gay, black Republican was as rare as hens with dentures. These days they are still rare, but nowhere like they once were. Times change.
Since I first began the series, thankfully, gay rights have been vastly expanded, there’s a generally less hostile response to the idea of gays in the mainstream, and though racism has not disappeared, it does seem to be on the run, which was not the case when Hap and Leonard first appeared.
That doesn’t mean things are rosy, and therefore the books continue to deal with cultural and political situations without that becoming the all-purpose reason for the stories.
What I can say about these guys is they have gone through a number of changes. Characters in the series have come and gone, some violently. Hap and Leonard have worked their way up from poverty to lower middle-class positions. They have done the jobs I did as I made my way in the world—field work, aluminum chair factories, etc.—and now they work somewhat regularly as private investigators, which is not totally surprising, as their stories always had a certain kinship with the private eye tale.
I love these guys. I do enjoy taking a break and writing other novels, some that might be considered more serious, but on the whole, I have said as much culturally, socially, and politically in their entertainments as I might have said in more serious tomes.
But the real reason I write about Hap and Leonard is because they are as real to me as some people I know, and a lot more interesting than a number of them.
Thank goodness for those guys. They have been good to me.
I never know when Hap and Leonard will show up with new adventures, but when they do, I’m always here to listen and record them for the reader.