Of Mice and Minestrone: Hap and Leonard: The Early Years
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"Five stories, four of them new, filling in more of the early years of that imperishable East Texas duo, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Kathleen Kent's brief introduction suggests that the running theme here is 'Kindness and Cruelty.' An even more precise motto might be 'Violence Is Inevitable, ' since Lansdale consistently treats the often lethal outbursts of his characters in disarmingly matter-of-fact terms, as if the boys couldn't help it. Three of the stories present Hap (white, straight, tough, sentimental) in the days before he met Leonard (black, gay, tougher, chip on shoulder), and two of them barely count as stories: 'The Kitchen' is a retrospective valentine to the simple pleasures of a family visit to Hap's grandmother, and 'The Sabine Was High' allows the pair to swap anecdotes about Hap's stint in prison and Leonard's hitch in Vietnam after Hap meets the bus bringing Leonard home. In between, the title story shows Hap's futile attempts to rescue a stranger named Minnie from the husband who batters her, tracks her down to her sister's, and maybe kills her; 'The Watering Shed, ' the sole reprint, tracks the progress from Hap and Leonard's maiden voyage to a local bar to a suddenly ugly, race-tinged quarrel that leaves two men dead; and 'Sparring Partner, ' the longest and best of the lot, follows the two friends to the perfect milieu, the boxing ring, where they hire out as punching bags for allegedly more dangerous opponents and where ritualized violence is subject to rules that have to be followed unless they don't. The dialogue throughout is worth the price of admission, not as stylized as Elmore Leonard's but laden with the same irresistible combination of relaxed badinage and playful threats that sometimes spiral into serious consequences while still remaining playful. The 17 down-home recipes contributed by Lansdale's daughter, Kasey, many of them as chatty as the stories, are a bonus."
--Kirkus "Full of humor, gritty drama, and insightful observations, the five stories in this rewarding collection from Edgar winner Lansdale (The Elephant of Surprise) concentrate on the early years of his two mismatched East Texas private eyes: Hap Collins, a straight, white liberal; and Leonard Pine, a gay, black conservative. Lansdale packs a punch in the standout 'Sparring Partner, ' in which the pair, as high schoolers, are hired by a ruthless boxing manager to train a weakling college kid and a giant named Man Slayer. Hap and Leonard fend off a murderous racist in the thrillingly grisly 'The Watering Shed, ' and in the moving title tale, Hap strives to help a battered woman escape her abusive husband. A food theme runs from the smells of an adolescent Hap's grandma's kitchen to a teenage Leonard's insistence on being served breakfast in a whites-only café. 'Good Eats, ' a selection of recipes with a disclaimer from Hap, rounds out the volume. This book adds rich background to Lansdale's tough, morally decent characters, who first appeared in 1990's."
"These stories evoke the likes of Elmore Leonard, and manage to feel so reflective that one can almost taste the food."
--Green Man Review
"In these character studies of his two most charismatic protagonists, Joe Lansdale takes us to the dark side of Mayberry--authentic tales of small town life in the heart of the twentieth century that also provide an unflinching look at the violence that charged the last gasps of Jim Crow, with all the force of the Sabine River at flood stage."
-- Christopher Brown, Campbell and World Fantasy Award-nominated author of Tropic of Kansas and Rule of Capture
"There's a place in East Texas where story shades into memory, where violence and tenderness are just part of the wonder of living, and that's precisely where Joe Lansdale lives, and writes from, and we're all the better for it. The eating's pretty good there, too, as Hap's recipes more than attest. You leave this book hungry, both for food and to start the whole series all over again, live through it one more time, maybe just live there a while."
--Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels and The Only Good Indians
--Ace Atkins, New York Times Bestselling author of The Shameless
"Of Mice and Minestrone is classic Lansdale at his legendary best. For his legions of fans, the much-anticipated stories will fill some of the gaps in their collections. For new readers, they will soon come to appreciate why Lansdale is regarded as one of America's finest living writers. Compelling. Hilarious. Poignant. Readers have waited a long time for this collection to finally appear. It was well worth that wait. Roll on the next sequels and prequels."
--NY Journal of Books
--Book Lover's Boudoir
"Of Mice and Minestrone is the last bit of connective tissue missing from the Hap and Leonard Mythos, which is one of the most entertaining series in modern literature. This book, which deals with abuse, friendship, violence, growing up, race, food, and justice, is full of the wit that's made Lansdale a star."
--Gabino Iglesias, author of Coyote Songs
"A folklorist's eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur's sense of pace."
--New York Times Book Review "An American original"
--Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box "A terrifically gifted storyteller."
--Washington Post Book Review "Like gold standard writers Elmore Leonard and the late Donald Westlake, Joe R. Lansdale is one of the more versatile writers in America.
--Los Angeles Times "A zest for storytelling and gimlet eye for detail."
--Entertainment Weekly "Lansdale is an immense talent."
--Booklist "Lansdale is a storyteller in the Texas tradition of outrageousness...but amped up to about 100,000 watts."
--Houston Chronicle "Lansdale's been hailed, at varying points in his career, as the new Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner-gone-madder, and the last surviving splatterpunk...sanctified in the blood of the walking Western dead and righteously readable."