WATCH: Joe Lansdale talks about new Hap and Leonard book, racism

Nacogdoches native and popular author Joe Lansdale talked about the new prequel for his Hap and Leonard series, "Of Mice and Minestroni" and current events.
Updated: Jun. 10, 2020 at 12:56 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - During his East Texas Now interview Tuesday, bestselling author Joe Lansdale, who lives in Nacogdoches, talked about his new Hap and Leonard book, “Of Mice and Minestrone” and touched on current events here in America.

The blurb for Lansdales’s new Hap and Leonard book says, “A brand-new Hap and Leonard series collection chock full of Joe R. Lansdale’s inimitable blend of humor, mayhem, and insight, Of Mice and Minestrone delivers never-before-seen stories, a selection of the boys’ favorite recipes, by Kasey Lansdale, and an introduction from New York Times bestselling crime author Kathleen Kent.”

“Of Mice and Minestrone” is a short story collection about Hap and Leonard’s early years, Lansdale said.

“I had written a previous collection about their early years, and it was fun, and the publisher loved the idea,” Lansdale said. “The recipes struck me as a fun idea, and they’ve been popular.”

He said Kasey, his daughter, wrote the recipes that are included in the book. She is also doing a series on film of her showing how to make the recipes, which are “all simple, and with a sense of humor.” He said people can watch the videos on the TACHYON site or on YouTube.

Lansdale explained that he writes in several different genres and that he started the Hap and Leonard series back in the 1990s. He added that the Sundance network did a three-season series on the characters and that the show is now available on Netflix.

The longtime author said he bases a lot of what happens in the Hap and Leonard series on real-life experiences. He also uses town names that are similar to real East Texas towns. For instance, there is a town in the Hap and Leonard books called Grovetown that is similar to Groveton in Trinity County.

Lansdale said he talks about things from his childhood and early adult years that weren’t always pleasant in his books. One of the topics that comes up often in his Hap Leonard books is racism.

“Hap is a white, heterosexual liberal, and Leonard is a black, gay conservative,” Lansdale explained. “Their ability to talk to each other and get along with each other is different from how we’ve become very polarized as a nation.”

While Hap is loosely based on Lansdale, he said that Leonard is “an amalgam of several people and my imagination.”

The Nacogdoches-based author said the response to his new book has been phenomenal.

Lansdale said in the interview that one of the things he hates the most is racism. He explained that he saw it first-hand growing up in a small East Texas town.

He said he can remember a time when there were separate water fountains for white and black people. Once, when he went to the movies with his mother, he noticed that there was a separate line for black people, who had to sit in the movie theater’s balcony. If they had to go to the bathroom, they had to leave the theater and go across the street.

“My mom told me, ‘It’s not right. I can’t explain it, but it won’t always be this way,’” Lansdale said.

Lansdale added that treating people unfairly because of the color of their skin has always struck him as wrong. However, the Nacogdoches-based author said that the people who want to ban books like “Huck Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are missing the point.

“I feel human guilt over racism, but I don’t necessarily feel white guilt,” Lansdale said. “However, the struggle is real.”

Giving an example from his early years, he said he was walking in the Center area with a black friend when a white woman pulled up in her car and got out clutching her purse like she thought Lansdale’s friend was going to steal it.

He said his friend joked, “Joe, you ought to steal her purse.”

Lansdale said some people claim racism is no longer an issue in America because we’ve had a black president who served two terms and other people of color who have been very successful. He added that simply means America has taken steps in the right direction, but racism is still a problem.

The author said people his age often tend to wax nostalgic about “the good old day,” but the truth of the matter was that the 1950s and 1960s were a very difficult time for blacks, women, gays, and transsexual individuals.

When Lansdale was a boy, he would go to the local feed store to buy comics, and he would stick around on the pretense of reading them, so he could listen while black farmers who came into the store told stories about their lives.

“They were great storytellers,” Lansdale said. “My parents were, too.”

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