Exclusive: Joe R. Lansdale on His HAP AND LEONARD Crime Novels Coming to the Sundance Channel
By Joseph McCabe on May 15, 2014
Author Joe R. Lansdale is one of America’s greatest living genre authors, a writer whose work recalls the hardboiled thrills of Raymond Chandler, the language of Elmore Leonard, and the wisdom of Mark Twain. It’s a meaty stew that the Texas native makes all his own. Lansdale’s many novels and short stories have traversed mystery, crime, horror, and science-fiction, and they’ve made their way to the screen in Don Coscarelli’s Bruce Campbell starrer Bubba Ho-Tep (based on Lansdale’s 2004 novella of the same name) and the various episodes he’s scripted of Masters of Horror and Batman: The Animated Series.
This year has been an especially satisfying one for us Lansdale fans, for it’s given us the just-released Son of Batman animated movie (which he adapted from Grant Morrison’s 2006 Batman and Son story arc) and the upcoming Cold in July, based on Lansdale’s 1989 crime novel and starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. The latter film is directed by Stake Land helmer Jim Mickle, whom Variety has confirmed will be bringing Lansdale’s beloved “Hap and Leonard” novels and stories to TV in a new series set to debut on the Sundance Channel. With Mickle’s Cold in July a hit on the festival circuit, the filmmaker’s writing partner Nick Damici again working with him, and Lansdale himself co-executive producing, Hap and Leonard, like its two heroes, looks like it’ll hit the ground running.
But since I don’t like taking things for granted, I reached out to Lansdale himself, and asked the prolific scribe why he thinks Mickle and Sundance are the right folks to bring Hap and Leonard to television… “These guys get my odd couple almost as much as I do,” Lansdale told me. “They give me confidence this can work.”
Hap and Leonard debuted in Lansdale’s 1990 thriller Savage Season (the complete first-edition cover of which — by artist Terry Lee — can be seen above). The duo consists of the violence-abhoring blue-collar Caucasian Hap Collins and his friend, two-fisted fighting man Leonard Pine, a gay African American Vietnam veteran. Together, the men find themselves time and again in the kind of trouble that would make even True Detective‘s Rust Cohle shiver.
Given the Golden Age of cable TV that we’re living in, and its increasingly realistic and intelligent treatment of violence and adult subject matter — as well as its respect for the work of popular authors and their readers — Hap and Leonard should win a wide audience when it premieres.