Vanilla Ride: A Hap and Leonard novel by Joe R. Lansdale

I’m not as glad to see a new Hap and Leonard novel as I am to be able to read Lansdale’s excellent dialog between these two and with anyone else that gets in their way. Christopher Moore makes me laugh with his innane situations and character dialog – but Lansdale has Hap and Leonard, two tough guys who are either getting their butts kicked or are doing the same to others, talking trash to one another all through the story. Their dialog is hilarious, and dead-on for two guys who have known each other forever, long enough to give each other a line of bull about each and every subject.

As usual, Hap and Leonard’s warped sense of honor gets them into trouble, this time trying to free the granddaughter of their former-cop friend Marvin from her drug dealer boyfriend. They do so with a lot of fists and one bullet, then throw the boyfriends cocaine down the toilet. This gets them on the bad side of the Dixie Mafia. The boyfriend and his posse come after Hap, Leonard and Hap’s girlfriend Brett while they are trying to get Brett, Marvin and his family out of town. Lots of people get shot, all of them the bad guys. This gets the threesome thrown in jail, and then into a plot with the FBI to help one of the Dixie Mafia middle layer guys get his son back so that the middle layer guy will turn over names and places of the Dixie Mafia to the FBI.

Hap and Leonard decide to do what the FBI wants, and they recruit a couple of heavy shooters to go after the son. Oh yeah, the son just happens to have taken his girlfriend and a large bag of the Dixie Mafia’s money.

As with the other Hap and Leonard novels I have read, this is not PG-13; but the dialog, while rude and bawdy is hilarious and well timed, not forced. And the East Texas situations, even from our perspective here in Houston, are dead on. These guys follow their own laws, make their own decisions, as the world was meant to be. Mr. Lansdale even manages to through in an Easter Egg or two (dropping the name of his daughter’s latest album and discussing a quick side trip to Robert E. Howard’s home / museum.

This book is a signed version, from a book signing at BookPeople in Austin. Mr. Lansdale is great fun at signings, I highly recommend it if you can get to one. He told me he is still working his martial arts schools as well.

All of the Hap and Leonard novels, which have been out of print and somewhat hard to find without used-bookstore-trolling, are being re-issued, courtesy of Vintage publishing.


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