Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review of Mucho Mojo by Joe Lansdale (1994, Indigo)

When Charlie Pine dies, his nephew Leonard Pine, a black manual labourer in East Texas, inherits his house and estate. Leonard moves into the property, asking his white best friend, Hap Collins, to join him. The neighbourhood has gone to seed and the next door property is a crack house. Leonard and Hap get off to a rocky start, tangling with drug dealers, but worse is to come when they discover the skeleton of a boy and child porn under the floorboards. Over the years a number of children have gone missing and the police have Charlie pegged as their abductor and killer. Leonard and Hap are not convinced. They think that Charlie had fulfilled his lifelong ambition to play detective, but had died before he could pin the crimes on the real perpetrator. They start to investigate, swapping information with a black detective who sees an opportunity to put a feather in his cap by apprehending a serial killer. But catching the real killer is not straightforward. And it’s a good job that Leonard and Hap can take care of themselves as this case might otherwise be the death of them.

I first read Mucho Mojo in 1996. I picked it up in a bookshop in Carryduff in Northern Ireland. I read it in a couple of sittings, captivated by the tale of Hap and Leonard turning detectives in an East Texas town, and by Lansdale’s storytelling style. The tale is told from the perspective of Hap Collins, a middle aged, white field worker, who is best friends with Leonard Pine, a tough, queer black man. The style is as a reminiscence, a kind of porch-told recounting of a mystery adventure. The story is infused with dark humour, with a nicely spun plot that has a mix of detection, romance and lost love, violent confrontations, and social commentary on race, religion, family and poverty in the Deep South. Reading it again more than twenty years later it has lost none of it vitality or social relevance, the storytelling and plot are still captivating, and Hap and Leonard are alive on the page; in my view one of the best double acts in contemporary fiction. A wonderful, entertaining read.

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