Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review of Vanilla Ride by Joe Lansdale (2009, Vintage Crime)

One of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine’s old friends needs a favour – his granddaughter has fallen in with a gang of drug dealers and her boyfriend beats her. He’d snatch her back and put her in rehab himself except for his health and the fact that he’d be taking on a gang of much younger and fitter men. Hap and Leonard might be getting on themselves, but they’re still reasonably fit and they have the confidence of surviving for years through their wits and violence. Grabbing the girl is eventful, but works out fine. Unfortunately, by flushing a valuable the drugs down the toilet, they annoy those above the bottom feeders – the Dixie Mafia. To assert their authority they need to make an example of Hap and Leonard, only they’ve badly under-estimated the task. After a bloody street battle, Hap and Leonard find themselves in jail facing charges, but there’s an offer on the table – to track down the wayward son of a Dixie member. They agree to the job, but it’s soon clear that they are not the only ones seeking the son, the Dixie Mafia still want them dead, and the legendary assassin, Vanilla Ride, is on their trail.

If Lansdale could churn out a daily dose of Hap and Leonard stories, I could quite happily read nothing but them and be satisfied. In my view, Hap and Leonard are the best double act in crime fiction today, and Lansdale the best proponent of comic crime. I loved Vanilla Ride from the first page to the last - my jaw ached from grinning so much. The writing is excellent – expressive, taut, quick paced, funny – and the dialogue is first class. The characterisation is a little caricaturish at times, but that goes with the territory with these kinds of novels. The plot is well constructed and it would easily translate to the big screen. I’ve nothing bad to say about it. If you have a rough and ready sense of humour then read this book – you won’t regret it.

1 comment:

Paul D Brazill said...

That sounds like a cracking book. I read the first couple of Hap & Leonard books years ago and they were great stuff.