BookBrowse Reviews Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

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Honky Tonk Samurai

A Hap and Leonard Novel

by Joe R. Lansdale

Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale X
Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Filled with Lansdale's trademark whip-smart dialogue, relentless pacing, and unorthodox characters, Honky Tonk Samurai is a rambunctious thrill ride.

In Lansdale's contemporary crime thriller (the latest in his Hap & Leonard series) about two East Texas "brothers from another mother" who earn money where they can – from chicken sexing to private investigating and more – the first person narrative is at once down home and sharp as a diamond tipped glass cutter. This dichotomy sets the tone for narrator Hap Collins's philosophy of life: even though things can appear to be opposites their multiple facets allow them to peacefully coexist.

Take Hap and Leonard Pine for instance. Hap is a straight White Vietnam War draft dodging liberal who generally strives for peaceful solutions in conflict situations. Leonard is a conservative gay Black Vietnam War hero who is usually a hair-trigger away from a fight. Are these enough opposites for you? Although they may be labeled by their differences, they are not defined nor limited by them. Their bond is built upon a foundation of personal integrity and mutual trust. They can be crude, irreverent, vulgar and violent when need be, but in the end Hap and Leonard are honorable men. Oh, yeah, and they have a knack for finding trouble or more precisely…

I don't think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh.

That is about as fitting a synopsis as a metaphor could be. In this case the "loose bolt" is a man that Hap & Leonard observe kicking his dog while doing some surveillance work for friend, Marvin Hanson, who owns a private investigation agency. Leonard responds to the abuse immediately, crossing the street and suggesting the man ought to try kicking Leonard – a considerably bigger target than the dog. When the man replies that Leonard is out of line and besides he is trespassing, Leonard says, "That's just where I start…How about I put one of your eyes out?" The ensuing scuffle leaves Hap to conclude that it, "appeared like a start to a fairly ordinary day for us."

The duo settles up with the abusive dog owner, leaving, "one of his teeth gleaming wetly in the grass," rescues (read adopts) the dog, and goes home. That's when that "loose bolt" starts to rattle a little more. A neighbor of the dog kicker, octogenarian Lilly Blockner, has witnessed the beating and recorded it on her tablet. She uses the video later to blackmail the partners into taking on a cold missing person case that involves her granddaughter, Sandy. Finally it's in the pursuit of the five-years-missing Sandy that the "loose bolt" slips completely and the "carnival ride" starts to groan and screech.

From there on out it's all Hap posing as a millionaire who made his fortune in sex toys, Leonard masquerading as a gardener/sex slave to old Texas oil wealth, cold cans of Dr Pepper, something called the Dixie Mafia, people named Weasel and Booger, animal crackers, a transgender car salesperson, inbred serial killers and "wads of bleeding human flesh." There's also prostitution, a biker gang, farting, shooting, vanilla wafers, plenty of salty language and just a soupçon of blasphemy. But it's all in the name of good – if not clean – crime fiction fun.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the March 16, 2016 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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