The Two-Bear Mambo (a Hap and Leonard Novel) by Joe R. Lansdale (1995) (read in 2018)
Published by marco on
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 third of the Hap and Leonard novels. Florida Grange has gone to Grovetown to represent a client, the son of a famous bluesman from the same town. The son thinks he’s found an old tape that could be worth a lot of money.
Chief Hanson, with whom Florida broke up before leaving, sends Hap to go look for her. Hap takes Leonard along. Grovetown does not approve. This town is so racist, it’s like an Enlightenment black hole. Chief Cantuck is not a great guy, but not the worst. Officer Reynolds is the worst. Even worse is the head of the local KKK—a group to which most of the town belongs.
Hap and Leonard go poking around and can’t help but stir up trouble, since Leonard is the wrong color. They end up getting beaten within and inch of their lives—they got in some shots, too, but were taking on most of the town—and slink back to Laborde with Officer Charlie.
They recover somewhat and regain their courage after a while, driving into the teeth of a rainstorm that will not quit to finish their investigation in Grovetown. After eliminating the obvious suspects, they finally figure out that it’s Florida’s disappearance and that of her client, was more about money than about racism. Cold comfort.
As with the second novel, I think the citations give a food flavor of the writing and sentiment.
“Now, the stories I heard were off the late-night news. Rapes and serial murders and child molestations. Children with guns and no imagination and less ambition. It wasn’t a world my father would have understood. Last time I had seen him was a Christmas many years ago. He looked as if he’d just viewed the new world he was living in for the very first time and didn’t like it and didn’t want to stay. He was dead in two weeks. A heart attack and he was out of there.”
“I also remembered a verse my daddy told me. “You end up havin’ to hit some sonofabitch, don’t just hit him once, and don’t just hit to get his attention.””
“You think to be important you got to be some kind of Wall Street stockbroker or Nobel Prize winner. Listen here. You’re a good man and my friend, and we’re true as we know how to be to what we think is right. I don’t know what else there is that matters. All that other shit is just cake decoration.””
“He reached the car dancing and grinning, stopped and laughed.
““Damn,” he said, “give an accordion to a redneck and all he can do is play ‘Home on the Range’ or some goddamn polka, give it to a coonass and he’ll make the music crawl up your butt and play with your kidneys.””
One less nigger was like one less cockroach.”
“ ’Course,” Leonard said, “cockroaches can’t play basketball.”
“Yeah, the jump shots throw ’em. I’ll tell you about Bobby Joe, kinda guy he was. He raped his own nephew’s wife, then when she told on him and the nephew tried to do something about it, he cut the nephew up to where he near died, went after the woman. Rumor is he made her fuck his German shepherd.”
“Oh, get out of here,” I said.
“I’m tellin’ you the story,” Tim said. “I can’t prove it. Haven’t got photos or nothing, but I believe it. There wasn’t nothing Bobby Joe wouldn’t do short of a law degree.”
Even if not true, the metadata that people are willing to believe it, is valuable information.
““Y’all got money?” she said. Like son, like mother.
““We can buy lunch and have dessert if the waiters don’t wear suits,” Leonard said.”
“The kitchen was just another part of the same room, and you could see where there had been a grease fire over the stove. The dank carpet and burnt insulation odor that tracked us from the living room blended with the stench of rancid grease coating the stove top. The fridge hummed desperately, like a dying man trying to remember a sentimental tune.
““Well,” Leonard said, “this is nice.”
““Don’t like it, go to hell,” said Ms. Garner. She said that without so much as a change of features.
““So much for the big sell,” Leonard said. “How much is it? Considering we’ll be camping out.”
““Ten dollars a day, pay by the day. Use too much gas or electricity, there’ll be a charge for that. I watch the meters.”
““This place looks like you found it when it floated downriver after a fire and tornado,” Leonard said.”
"I never said that I was invincible.”
“No, but you thought it. Leonard did anyway, and I think you thought he was invincible on some level. Could take anything and come out on top. And when the two of you are together, well, you’re like the biggest dogs in the junkyard. But you ain’t. You’re just two dogs and there’s always someone bigger, smarter, and meaner.”
“I owe you for this session?”
“First session’s free. Maybe you’ve seen little shadows, chinks in your and Leonard’s armor, and you don’t like it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. No one is anything better than human. Just some humans are better humans than others, but the best humans are still just human. In the end, we all end up like that squirrel out there.”
“It’s just a way of living your life, and I personally don’t know it’s better than any other, it’s just all we know.”
“I don’t get it,” Raul said. “Why all this macho?”
“When I say act like a man,” Leonard said, “I mean act honorably and with courage. Macho has been turned into a bad word by turds who act like beasts, not men.”