In my youth, the years 1977 through 2009, I read comic books, sometimes sporadically, sometimes with a scary fanaticism. It was there I first encountered Joe Lansdale.
The book was Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo, and I'd originally picked it up because Tim Truman is fan-flipping-tastic (possibly the topic of a future blog entry.) Old Joe quickly won me over. He took a western character I knew nothing about and threw me into a world of medicine shows and a zombie Wild Bill Hickok. Imagine my surprise a year or two later when I found out Mrs. Lansdale's little boy had an impressive stack of novels to his credit.
I began devouring Joe's novels, slowly at first, starting with The Bottoms, then Zeppelin's West, then the Magic Wagon. I began tracking down his short story collections and gobbling them up. High Cotton, Bumper Crop, I tracked them all down. I even plunked down some serious coin for Dead in the West, a western featuring a ton of zombies. All the while, I was faintly aware Lansdale had a series lurking in the background.
Why I waited so long to give Hap and Leonard a try, I have no earthly idea. Hap Collins, a day laborer, and Leonard Pine, another day laborer who happens to be black, gay, an ex-Navy Seal and the baddest mother fucker on the planet, quickly rocketed to the top of my favorite detective fiction protagnists. The stories are chock full of violence and black humor and usually have some disturbing shit going down. The Texas setting sets the books apart from other detective fiction. Redneck noir, I believe people are calling it.
To date, I'd say I've read over 30 Lansdale books. I won't say I adored all of them but they were all satisfying reads, be they horror, crime, or straight up humor. He's a versatile man.
Joe's still on the fringes of polite society but you're paths may have come close to crossing more than once. Have you ever heard about a movie called Bubba HoTep? That's a Lansdale. What about the Jonah Hex themed episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Also a Lansdale. Conan and the Songs of the Dead? Yup. Lansdale AND Truman on that one.
Suffice to say, Joe Lansdale has been on my must-read list for quite some time. How could he not be? He wrote a story about rednecks fighting over a locket containing one of the Virgin Mary's pubic hairs, for god's sake!