Savage Season

Joe R. Lansdale
Savage Season Cover

Savage Season


In Savage Season, Lansdale introduced his ongoing, East Texas protagonists, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. They are always described as an unlikely duo, although inexplicable might be a better word. Collins did some time for breaking into a Utah nuclear facility during his student radical days. Pine is a Viet Nam vet, black, and gay. Collins narrates the novel, and since much of the action centers on the reappearance of his nothing-but-trouble ex-wife, we get considerable information on his sex life. Pine's apparent celibacy goes unexplained. They are apparently friends because they live in East Texas and are the only interesting people they now. This is not a far-fetched notion.

Trudy, Collins' ex, wants them to help recover a trove of lost cash from a car sunk somewhere in an East Texas swamp. Despite all the red flags, they agree. This brings them into contact with a motley crew of ex-radicals who have variously idealistic plans for the money once its retrieved. (Yeah, sure.) Let the double-crossing begin.

The student radical plot seemed dated to me, but Lansdale published this in 1990. and so the heyday of the characters' activism is not all that far behind them. Still learning about who they were and what they did in their glory days is not particularly interesting, and you know it is going to all fall apart once the money comes up from bottom of that swamp.

Lansdale comes into his own in the final violent passages of his novel. Some characters drop like flies, some prove to be tough, and there are the obligatory psychos to keep things interesting.

I do not now why Savage Season was nominated for a Bram Stoker award when it came out or why it appears on some "best of" horror novel lists. The violence gets pretty extreme toward the end, but it is a straightforward crime novel.