Honk Tonk Samurai

Honky Tonk Samurai  by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap and Leonard are two of the most interesting characters in literature today. They are described on the book blurb thus:

Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet…

How can you not want to know more?

Honky Tonk Samurai is yet another jewel in the Hap and Leonard crown series. In this episode, the two become employees of Hap’s beautiful and fiery girlfriend, Brett, who has taken over Marvin’s detective agency.

They are contracted by an extremely crude and tough-talking, yet strangely likeable old woman, Lilly Buckner, to locate her granddaughter who has been missing for 5 years, presumed dead. In an exchange between Lilly and Leonard upon first meeting, the dialogue, with Hap as narrator, went like this:

‘Found her?’ she asked.

‘No,’ I said.

‘Then what the hell are you here for?’

‘She is so endearing,’ Leonard said.

‘Go fuck yourself,’ Ms Buckner said, glaring at Leonard with two watery eyeballs.

‘And her verbal skills are delightful,’ he said.

‘Kiss my ass,’ she said. …

… ‘Just to be clear, Leonard works with me and the lady you met at the office.’

‘She’s kind of a bitch,’ the old lady said.

‘Wow, that is something,’ Leonard said. ‘If you weren’t old and a woman, I’d punch you in the mouth. Brett’s like my sister.’

‘Don’t let the age stop you,’ she said. ‘I can still bounce a little.’

Lansdale is a Master of the witty repartee, and through it he creates greater insight into the personalities as well as gifting us with a mass of memorable characters. Even those within his novels who have smaller roles are bestowed with entertaining dialogue. This, seamlessly, gives us depth where many others merely gloss over individuals. Lansdale is, as I said, a Master.

The search for Lilly Buckner’s granddaughter becomes infinitely more complex when a killer biker-gang gets involved. And as if that isn’t bad enough, a notorious serial killer in the employ of the Dixie Mafia is sniffing the trail of our intrepid duo.

Hap and Leonard call on friends, and Booger, to assist them in their efforts to get the Canceler, as the serial killer is known, before the Canceler gets them. It turns out that this horrific presence likes to cut off the scrotum, taking it and the testicles of any victims as trophies, amassing a growing collection from across the US.

Booger is a new character. He is yet another of these strange and often extreme people who throw their lot in with Hap and Leonard throughout the series. Some of them even get to survive the experience, and some don’t.

We also get reacquainted with both Jim Bob Luke, the good guy redneck lunatic and close friend of Hap and Leonard, as well as the beautiful and dangerous hit-woman, Vanilla Ride, who is becoming increasingly smitten with Hap.

It all makes for a hair-raising ride with the pace never letting up. Throw in a major development in Hap’s personal life, Marvin’s return to the police force, and an ending which will have you on tenterhooks, not to mention a gang of inbred hilly billy killers, and you have a sensational story relayed with aplomb, sensitivity, extreme violence and great humour.

Joe R Lansdale is, for me, a must in reading culture. He sets the standard in terms of plot-lines, pacing, and quirky and memorable characters. Honk Tonk Samurai is the last in this tranche of Lansdale books that I will review. I look forward to the next batch, and am eager for the continuation of the crazy adventure that is the life of Hap and Leonard.

I do wonder if Lansdale will soon write a crazy character based upon the personality of Donald Trump. The D-man’s performance at the NATO meeting when he shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of his way so that he could stand in front and smile falsely at the press, is certainly worthy of a place in a Lansdale novel. But would we find such a personality believable?

I think, however, that given the attitude of Hap and Leonard to such idiots, any Trump representation would end up shot, stabbed and beaten, by both Hap and Leonard… and Brett… and Jim Bob Luke… and Marvin… and Booger… and Buffy (Leonard’s and Brett’s dog).

Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. Don’t miss this one, but read the others first.