Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vanilla Ride Review

The Dedication to Vanilla Ride reads as such:For all you Hap and Leonard fans. Bless your little weird hearts. Who you calling weird, Lansdale?If that's true, there's a lot of weird people out there. The Hap and Leonard books are among the most universally loved pieces of fiction I've ever known about. I've turned a lot of people on to them and every one has loved them. Every single individual. Even those that either don't read or barely read. They love Hap and Leonard.I got on board early and I bought Savage Season immediately upon its publication. I was already a huge fan and had been since the first book I read by Joe, which was The Drive-In. I was later blown away by other Lansdale works like The Magic Wagon, Act of Love, Dead in the West and especially Cold in July. But Savage Season was special. Its lead characters captured my heart and it became an instant favorite.Luckily for Joe's readers, Savage Season was not the last time we would see Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. They returned in Mucho Mojo and again in The Two-Bear Mambo. Over the course of eleven years six Hap and Leonard novels were published. The ones I named as well as Bad Chili, Rumble Tumble and Captains Outrageous. And they also made an appearance or two in short stories.Then there was a hiatus in which there were no novels coming out about the baddest pair of Texas ne'er do wells since Augustus McCrea and Woodrow Call. Captains Outrageous was released in 2001 and the fans had to wait a long eight years before Hap and Leonard resurfaced. Which they just have, in a new novel called Vanilla Ride.A new novel and a new publisher. Now Joe is putting out books with the prestigious Alfred A. Knopf Publishing House and it's a suitable home for his awesome skills.The first question interested parties are likely to ask is, was Vanilla Ride the wait? My answer is, what do you think? Vanilla Ride is everything that Hap and Leonard fans love about the series. It's funny as hell, there's breathtaking action, there's mood and careful attention to the details of the locations in the book. And as always with Lansdale, the characters rise above the simple stereotypes that might at first seem obvious.The best things is that there is as much introspection and, dare I say it, philosophy in Vanilla Ride as there is violence and bawdy humor. Which is to say there is a great deal of it. The first person narration is always by Hap Collins, who constantly questions his own motives and impulses while his wisecracking exterior masks his inner turmoil.This one is as tough and hard as any and Hap and Leonard face their deadliest (and sexiest) opponent yet in the enigmatic and beguiling Vanilla Ride.Joe R. Lansdale has made a habit of bringing past characters back into his stories, much to the delight of his readers. Longtime Lansdale fans will be overjoyed to learn that Jim Bob Luke makes an extended appearance. And this reader holds out hope that we'll get to see Vanilla Ride again.Hap and Leonard are officially back and it's up to the readers to help ensure that the series will continue. Publishing is a business like any other. If the books make money, more will probably come. Skip the library and don't wait for the paperback with this one. I don't want to wait eight more years for another ripping Hap and Leonard adventure.


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