Monday, May 23, 2016


     HonkyTonk Samurai is the eleventh book in author Joe Lansdales Hap & Leonard series, which also includes a TV show bearing their names on the Sundance Channel. Mr. Lansdale is one of my favorite authors, largely based on TheThicket, which was a great work of historical fiction that went beyond genre expectations. Honky Tonk Samurai is my first featuring Hap & Leonard.
     Hap & Leonard are working for friend Marvin Hanson at his private detective firm. While on a relatively simple job, Leonard finds himself taking justice into his own hands when he sees a man abusing a dog. Just as it seems the two will walk away from Leonard’s vigilantism unscathed, a crass old woman comes to the detective agency with video of the incident that would not only cause problems for Leonard, but their friend, the newly appointed police chief. But the old woman isn’t interested in money, instead she wants Hap and Leonard to look for her missing granddaughter, Sandy, the only family she has left. Sandy was last known to be working for a classic car dealer before disappearing five years ago. Without much choice, they take the case, and find that Sandy’s disappearance is part of prostitution, bribery, and murder associated with the sale of overpriced classic cars.
     One of the reasons I’m a fan of Lansdale is the dynamic characters in his novels. Honky Tonk Samurai does not disappoint. In addition to those I presume make regular appearances in the series are a family of inbred serial killers and a sexy transgendered front woman for the classic car business. Those characters are surrounded by clever, if not a little overused, writing.

“As an old gray-haired addict called Two-Toe George told me and Leonard once, ‘When you start wanting meth more than you want pussy or a rib-eye steak, then you know you got, like, a serious fucking drug problem’

Two-Toe George was a philosopher”
Author Joe Lansdale
     But for as many snide, funny, sometimes hilariously vulgar lines (“You could have pushed me down with a hummingbird fart”), there were also much more profound sections, reflections on life and death, aging, fatherhood, religion, and more.

“One some level, like the samurai of old, you have accepted your death. You are neither there to win or to lose. You are there to be in the moment… I might add right here that I say fuck the samurai. I planned to win. I planned to go home… And as that thought galloped through my head, another less pleasant thought showed up. Sometimes your luck runs out.”

     There were times that some of the wise-cracking, bad-assing, adversarial but affectionate bantering got a bit thick for my tastes, but it never took away from either the story, characters, and colorful action and violence.
     It is difficult for any author to keep characters interesting and dynamic after eleven books, but Mr. Lansdale has done that and more. Book twelve, RustyPuppy, is due out in 2017, and I’m looking forward to more of Hap & Leonard.    

Lansdale, Joe. Honky Tonk Samurai, Mullholland Books, February 2, 2016.

An advance copy of  Honky Tonk Samurai  was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via No compensation was provided for this review. 

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