Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale
He’s back! And with a bang! Lansdale has returned to my life with this little gem. Two sittings to finish, and I enjoyed every damn minute if it.
Hap Collins is large, white, hetro and funny. Leonard Pine is larger, black, homo and also funny. Both are from East Texas. They are best buddies who somehow continually find themselves in the deepest sort of shit. Hap usually gets shot, as they encounter a veritable smorgasbord of the most diverse and wonderful individuals that the US has to offer.
In Vanilla Ride, both men run foul of the Dixie Mafia. As they rush to rescue two naïve teenagers, they in turn are hunted by a variety of hired guns, some dangerous and some completely off the wall lunatics. Along the way the reader is treated to a feast of witty repartee, as Hap and Leonard try to ignore the mayhem that inevitably follows them. At one point, Hap (the central narrator to this tale), is sitting in a hitman’s van feeling ‘like one of the Scooby Doo gang.’ He continues thus, ‘ I was probably Scooby himself. A big dumb dog without a dick.’
Leonard, the gay one of the two, employs some, and suffers some of the most homophobic remarks you are likely to encounter in any novel. As he is black, he gets hit with quite a bit of racism also. Yet Leonard triumphs over it all. Yes, perhaps including a gay, black man is a clever way of introducing the most inappropriate language you can imagine, yet it is presented in such a way as to put the joke on the abuser. The insults are so casually thrown as to become of little importance, except when Leonard decides to kick some serious abuser ass, which he does quite a lot of. The victim here, becomes the champion.
I am a massive fan of Lansdale’s stories. His characters are unusual, yet strangely believable. I think I might try to avoid East Texas, however, as everyone there seems to be flying over that cuckoo’s nest and pissing down on Jack Nicholson’s shit-eating grin.
Joe R. Lansdale has expert comic timing. He could easily write the script for a hit Tarantino movie, such is his skill and creativity. Watch for the scene when Hap and Leonard fight the giant man. It had me laughing out loud, but then I do have no good sense.
One thug was described as ‘… scratching his nuts like a squirrel sorting acorns’. Yet another tough guy commented in this way on his life, ‘Way I look at it, between the pussy and the asshole is no-man’s land… You either come out a baby or a turd, and I think I came out the wrong hole.’
Lansdale has been described as ‘The Bard of East Texas’. I would credit him with being ‘The Bard of Everyman’. People come and go in a Lansdale novel. They are remembered because, like most of his characters, they are memorable.
If you are prudish, then run like the clappers when you see a Lansdale book. If you are religious, then bring some Holy Water with you and sprinkle his tomes, watch them sizzle. If you are squeamish, then go read Winnie The Pooh. If, however, you enjoy great plotlines with hitmen, alligators, inappropriate language, sexy gals, sexy guys, guns, more alligators, and fights and gunfights galore, all wrapped up in a bitchin’ package of humour and tossed at you at breakneck speed, then get your supercool ass to the bookstore and pick up a copy of anything by Joe R. Lansdale. Vanilla Ride is a good one to jump in on. Enjoy the ride.
Note: I currently have three more Lansdale books sitting on my shelf screaming at me to read them. One has hired a Mariachi band and is doing the Macarena all over the place, whilst the other two applaud raucously, so I guess I’ll chose that one next. I hope Lansdale adopts me. I can cook.
Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. You’d be mad to miss it.