Mucho Mojo (a Hap and Leonard Novel) by Joe R. Lansdale (1994) (read in 2018)
Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.
This is the second Hap and Leonard novel. This one picks up where the first one left off—with the two heroes down on their luck and back to working in the rose fields, for peanuts. Leonard gets a sort of windfall—his uncle Chester has died and left him with a sizable inheritance as well as his house.
The house is in a rough neighborhood and right next to a crack den. Leonard cannot let that stand, so he takes them on immediately. They’re a big problem, but they’re not the main problem. The main problem seems to be a case that the police refused to work on, but that Chester and his friend Moon had been working for years. Moon is missing as well.
Hap and Leonard discover this from strange clues that Chester left—and then discover a child’s skeleton under the house, wrapped in child pornography. They suspect Chester, of course, but Leonard is adamant that he couldn’t have done it.
I won’t ruin any more of the story, but it unfolds in a very interesting manner. The reverend and sheriff are involved, as is big ol’ TJ. Leonard and Hap stay true and stay on the trail to figure it all out in the end. To get a flavor for the style of writing, check out the citations.
“My overall appearance was of someone who had been in a fight and lost.”
“There was some hand-shaking and talking, and most of the crowd came over and spoke to Leonard and said how sorry they were, looked at me out of the corners of their eyes, suspicious because I was white, or maybe because they assumed I was Leonard’s lover. It was bad enough they had a relative or acquaintance who was queer, but shit, looked like he was fucking a white guy.”
“Is it OK I ask a question?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Are you married?”
“Anyone significant in your life right now?”
“Any possibility of me taking you to dinner?”
“I don’t think so, Mr. Collins.”
“I clean up pretty good.”
“I’m sure you do, but I think not. Thanks for asking.”
On the way down in the elevator, Leonard said, “Hap Collins, Lady Killer.”
“Hey, I’m offering you a job. I didn’t call up for insults.”
“Maybe we can jump that shit pay a little. Another fifty cents an hour you’d almost be in line with minimum wage.”
“Don’t start, Hap. You know the pay. I pay cash, too. You save on income tax that way.”
“You save on income tax, Lacy. Wages like that, I don’t save dick. I’d rather make enough so I had to pay some taxes.”
“Yeah, well …” And he went on to tell me about his old mother in a Kansas nursing home. How he had to send her money every month. I figured he probably shot his mother years ago, buried her under a rosebush to save on fertilizer.
“Couldn’t your old mother whore a little?” I said. “You know, she’s set up. Got a room and a bed and all. If she can spread her legs, she can pay her way.”
“Hap, you bastard. Don’t start fucking with me, or you can forget the job.”
“My heart just missed a beat.”
“Not everyone has had the chance to have pride, Captain Know-It-All. You don’t come with it built in. Like new cars, there are some options got to be installed.”
“I shut my mouth and brooded. There was some truth in what Leonard said, but ultimately, in my mind, there’s no one more obnoxious and self-righteous than the self-made man. And no one more admirable.”
“Your uncle was a witty man, and quick with a quip. He seemed to have a special hatred for religion.”
““Hypocrisy is what bothered him,” Leonard said. “Not religion.””
“They swept down black and vicious and brought with them Zorro slashes of lightning and lug bolts of rain.”
“In the car, Leonard said, “I know it’s an ugly thing to say, him being ignorant as a post and all, but maybe, luck’s with the world, that shiftless sonofabitch will die in his sleep tonight. He ain’t doing nothing but makin’ turds.””
The big black guy who’d been watching strolled over to our table. Well, not exactly strolled. He listed a little. He’d had just the right amount of beer. I sized him up, looking for striking zones just in case it wasn’t his intention to discuss politics or summer fashion.
He stopped at our table, said to Leonard, “What the fuck you doin’ in here with this honkie, brother? You trying to get a job promotion? This ain’t no honkie place.”
Leonard leaned over the table, said, “He’s talking about you.”
“Yeah?” I said.
“Yeah,” Leonard said. “You see, honkie is a very derogatory black term for whites,” Leonard said to me. “You see, stuff like peckerwood, ofay, and honkie, it’s very insulting. It’s like whites calling us nigger or coon or jungle bunny”
“No shit?” I said. The big black guy glared at me, said, “You ain’t never heard honkie before, motherfucker?”
“He’s sheltered,” Leonard said. Then to me: “Motherfucker, Hap, is a common term meaning you fuck your mother. Even if you don’t fuck your mother, folks say it anyway if they’re mad at you or want to make you mad. It’s designed to be derogatory.”
“I see,” I said.
“You cocksuckers best quit fuckin’ with me!” the big black guy said.
“Cocksucker,” Leonard said to me, “is a common term—”
“Cut it out, you motherfuckers!”
“He grinned slowly, and when he grinned, damned if he didn’t have that confident air Leonard’s got, like he’s immortal and knows it. MeMaw was right. They did favor.”
“Another bad thing about a holding cell is you don’t exactly meet a great crowd of people. A lot of them are criminals.”
“I’m sure the owner of the dwelling, Mr. Otis—”
“Some fat cat honkie, I reckon,” Leonard said.
“One of the fattest,” Florida said. “Mr. Otis, who I know is an upstanding citizen, and a friend of the police chief, would be upset to discover the house he’s renting out is being used to sell drugs.”
“Naw,” Charlie said. “Old fart gets a slice of the action.”
“We don’t know that,” Hanson said.
“We can’t prove it,” Charlie said. “Ain’t the same thing.”
“The only light in the gym was the sunlight that came through high shutter windows, and it was bright to the center of the gym, but there its reach played out and the shadow took over, grew darker toward the far wall.”
“The Reverend pulled on a pair of red gloves, and he and Hiram moved toward the center of the gym, and the line of light and shadow split them down the middle, putting one side of their body in the light, the other in the dark, but then they began to move, to bob and weave, to shuffle and dance, and they were one moment in brightness, the next in shadow.”
“You got to understand, Hap. I didn’t start any of this.”
“I don’t need to understand anything. All I understand is you and Fitz and T.J., every year, killed a young boy, cut him up and buried him under that house. That’s all I need to understand. The why of it doesn’t mean a thing to me.”