Blood and Lemonade

October 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

lemonadeBlood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

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I started off reading Hap and Leonard Ride Again, an e-book-only release of Hap and Leonard, a collection of short stories only available in print. Contents were shuffled some between the two editions, but then when I compared the contents to Blood and Lemonade, I realized that the three books have a ridiculous amount of overlap. There are some nonfiction pieces in the first two books that aren’t in Blood and Lemonade, along with a couple of stories, but for the most part these three books have a lot of the same contents. In the end, I read the distinct stuff from Hap and Leonard Ride Again and then read Blood and Lemonade.

The stories are decent enough, but Lansdale does his best work with longer formats. “Veil’s Visit” (co-written with Andrew Vacchs) and “Death by Chili” from Ride Again are stories from when Hap and Leonard are adults, but the pieces in Blood and Lemonade are about the two characters as children. Some are about the two of them (along with “In the River of the Dead”, which I’m surprised didn’t get its own novella release), but a large number of them are about Hap’s childhood. Some of the stories are from Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be, which brings me back to this book having a lot of overlap with Lansdale’s other collections.

That’s kind of my biggest gripe about Lansdale, that he reprints a lot of his stories from one collection to the next. A lot of them are to account for stories that were in collections that have gone out of print, but when I buy three books (MiraclesRide Again, and Lemonade) and find a lot of duplication, I get a little aggravated. I’d prefer there being distinctive works among all the collections, since I’m likely to buy them all, anyway.

Lansdale constructs this book as a novel, tying the stories together as Hap reminiscing on his childhood with Leonard, Brett, and Chance, but it’s a loose structure. Lansdale himself calls this a mosaic novel in his afterword, but to me it still read like a collection of short stories. Many of them (all of them?) speak on issues of race and class, making the stories feel similar and repetitious. The best of the bunch is “In the River of the Dead”, which reads like a usual Hap and Leonard adventure.

I wouldn’t consider Blood and Lemonade necessary reading save for the most dedicated Lansdale fans. Even Hap & Leonard fans might find it lacking, compared to the rest of the books in the series, and yes, I’m even including Captains Outrageous in that comparison. The book does collect the disparate Hap & Leonard stories, which will be of interest to some readers, but it might be better to read the stories one at a time, over several days. It might lessen the repetition of the stories.

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