Country Noir: Savage Season by Joe Lansdale

Take two crazy S.O.B.s, add one simple plan, and, well, things go about as well as expected from there.  Savage Season is Lansdale’s first novel featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.  He would go on to write nine more novels, three novellas,  and three short story collections and get his work adapted for TV as Hap and Leonard (recently cancelled after three seasons).

Hap is a white ex-hippie who did time for draft dodging.  Leonard is a black gay Vietnam vet.  (Savage Season was published in 1990.)  They share a job working as field hands, a love of martial arts, middle age, and one hell of a friendship.  Things go to shit when that ex walks back into Hap’s life and offers him a chance at easy money.

Lansdale might disagree,[1] but Savage Season features several quintessential country noir elements.  There is a strong sense of place, in this case the Piney Woods of East Texas (Lansdale’s an East Texas native).  There are colorful characters.  It is decidedly low-rent, with criminals of the two-bit variety, if not just the one bit.  A simple plan explodes into way too much violence.  And the protagonists never quite come out ahead.

Trudy is that ex.  The one that is bad news.  And the one that Hap just can’t resist.  Leonard knows she’s trouble as soon as he sees her walk up.  One of her compadres shared a cell with a man who told him where to find a little buried treasure that no one else knows about.  And he won’t be in a position to do anything about it, seeing as he’s dead.  The only hitch to retrieving the ill-gotten gains of too much cash for a small town East Texas bank to have on hand is that its resting place is in a boat at the bottom of the Sabine River.  He was kind enough to narrow down the location on the 500-mile long Sabine, but only by so much.  It just so happens that Hap knows the Sabine like the back of his hand and knows a thing or two about diving, so there you go.

All they have to do is find the cash, pull it out, and avoid getting double-crossed by a bunch of aging radicals who want to give the money to Greenpeace or some stupid shit.  Or something worse happening.

Man that is the stuff.  Basically, Savage Season is a kickass country noir of just the sort I like with one big issue dragging it back down.  Hap and Leonard do run their damn mouths, to my annoyance, but at least they’re smart enough to know to shut up when the real bad guys arrive.  Unfortunately, the real bad guys have a patter of their own that’s even more annoying.  The humor doesn’t entirely work and wore thin on me.

I’m definitely diving back in in the nearish future, though.  I’m going to look into the TV show too, soon as I get a few of the books under my belt.  There isn’t much in the way of country noir on the TV past Justified and Ozark.

4 of 5 Stars.


More reviews:

Guy Savage at His Futile Preoccupations… – review.

Wayne C. Rogers at Matt Molgards Horror Novel Reviews – review.

Ben at Dead End Follies – review.

Zoe at Zoe E. Whitten: Reviews, rambles, rants, and stuff that may not start with R – review.

Jesse at Speculiction – review.


[1] I saw Lansdale speak on a Southern Gothic panel at a con a while back.  I asked him if there was any real difference between the fiction of the hills and the fiction of the lowcountry and he was insistent that there isn’t.  I staunchly disagree, but then, given how well this story fits into my conception of country noir, maybe he is right.  But then maybe it isn’t Southern Gothic at all.


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15 thoughts on “Country Noir: Savage Season by Joe Lansdale

    1. I have him on my master list of Conan writers, but I have yet to track down any of his comics. The only Lansdale I read before Savage Season was the Burroughs pastiche he wrote for the Old Venus anthology–my favorite story from that collection.


  1. fletchav

    At some point, maybe Captains Outrageous, the Hap and Leonard books get a little strained. The first four, though, (plus the connected Cold in July) rock hard. The cover of the first paperback edition illustrates one of the more brutal moments in the book and remains forever burned in my head. I’ve seen the first two seasons of the show and they mostly work – the leads are terrific .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t see how you can use the same characters and tell 10+ country noir stories in a row. Not well.

      I’m a fan of Purefoy and Michael K. Williams, so I am definitely going to check out the show after I get around to reading the second and third books. What did you think of Purefoy in the Solomon Kane movie, by the way?


      1. fletchav

        I just started rereading the Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books. There’s 20 of them and I definitely remember them getting a little wearing. It’s the nature of serial fiction.

        I should rewatch SOLOMON KANE. My memories are of him being good and the movie being disappointing. I’m definitely a fan of his. I sat through the awful THE FOLLOWING because of him.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Fletchav regarding Solomon Kane: Purefoy was good, Max v Sydow too, but the movie disappoints, (IMO) because like just about every other movie based on REH’s work, they refused to actually film a Solomon Kane story. They just used a character with that name and went with their own ideas.

    I like Purefoy’s work in general; I think he should have gotten the nod for John Carter rather than Taylor Kitsch, (who would have made a better Kantos Kan) but the Marketing team screwed that pooch so badly I guess it doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. People tell me John Carter was a bomb, but it is one of the few 21st century films I have in Blu-ray, and I don’t regret the purchase in the slightest. There are times during that film when the boy I was when I fell in love with Barsoom looks out of my eyes and yells “Look, Look!”.

    Liked by 1 person

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