Author Joe Lansdale has written more than 45 novels and hundreds of short stories. A new audience is about to be introduced to his work thanks to the television adaptation of his series on a Texas odd couple. “Hap and Leonard” premieres on Sundance TV in March, starring Michael Kenneth Williams, recognizable as Omar from “The Wire,” and featuring Christina Hendricks, of “Mad Men” fame. At the same time, Lansdale is touring Texas with his latest novel about the world of Hap and Leonard – it’s called “Honky Tonk Samurai” – and he’s got a new collection of the Hap and Leonard stories.
Lansdale, an East Texan born and raised, says he’s written almost exclusively about characters in the area, a small town called LaBorde that’s a “somewhat nebulous” blend of Tyler and Nacogdoches. Hap, Lansdale says, is a “duck out of water” while Leonard is a black gay Republican.
“They’re hardscrabble, blue-collar guys,” he says. “Hap, like me, is a liberal that was an anti-war protestor for the Vietnam War… This is before gay rights were really established and civil rights were shaky in that area. The background is somewhat volatile. I think that even though they have these differences in how they think, they also have a core where they’re both very honorable men.”
Much of his work has humor, if not outright comedy, Lansdale says. He cites a Mark Twain quip as inspiration – “There’s no humor in heaven.”
“Humor is nearly always based on somebody’s discomfort, pain, embarrassment or whatever,” he says, “Humor, to me, it makes you laugh, but sometimes you go, Why am I laughing?”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.