Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review of Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale

The Lethal Weapon series of films in the 80s and 90s were quite popular. Epitomizing the action-comedy sub-genre, the series relied on the old-standby of a wise-cracking duo caught up in exciting chases and shootouts. While Lethal Weapon remains low-brow Hollywood fluff, the racial dynamics of the starring roles were far less common. Taking the cue from Riggs and Murtaugh, Joe R. Lansdale went about creating his own salt and pepper dynamic duo in 1990’s Savage Season, this time of the blue-collar Texan variety.

An average couple of Joes caught in a money grab gone wrong, Hap and Leonard exude every inch of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. A conscientious objecter during the Vietnam War, when Hap Collins is released from prison, he attempts to start over, and gets employment at a local rose farm in Texas. Meeting the surly Leonard Pine as a result, the two form a friendship based on common interests in martial arts, drinking beers, and taking the piss out of one another. Hap’s ex-wife coming back into his life unexpectedly one day, she brings in tow a get-rich-quick scheme. Hap enlisting the reluctant Leonard, the two join forces with the ex-wife and a pair of leftover hippy idealists, trying to find a cache of money supposedly lost by a group of bank robbers. It isn’t long before the tables start turning, and duo find themselves in over their head.

Set in the 70s, indeed Savage Season has a 70s feel to it. One-liners flying fast and free, the characters perform some cut-scene kung fu, and the bad guys do despicably evil things with smiles on their faces. It all makes the novel seem like an extended episode of a 70s television crime drama—disco music wika-wikking in background as white t-shirts and tight jeans spin-kick their way to boobtube glory.

Overall, Savage Season, like Lethal Weapon, depends on the interplay of its two main characters. The pair hamming it up for one another, Lansdale delivers a lot of sharp dialogue as Hap and Leonard bust each others’ balls. Their interaction where the novel’s rubber hits the novel, it’s not a surprise Savage Season spawned many further stories featuring the duo (not unlike Lethal Weapon, no?), even if the stories themselves are rather basic and familiar.

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