Joe R. Lansdale
March 22, 2018
Jackrabbit Smile has all the fixings of a Hap and Leonard novel. The duet is fronting their own detective agency, owned by Hap's old time girlfriend and brand new wife Brett. They are given a job to find a missing woman, Jackie aka Jackrabbit. Hap and Leonard are hired by Jackie's extremely racist mother and brother who gay and black Leonard pounces on like a cat and treat in his psychologically aggressive style like a chew toy. The job takes them to Hap's childhood stomping grounds Marvel Creek and they find out that the town has added a bunch of questionable characters that includes a white supremacist called Professor. Of course, the big question is; is Jackrabbit missing or dead and how was she involved in Marvel Creek's chaotic mix of low life schemers and racemongers?
There are always social issues of race and class lurking in a Hap and Leonard novel but novel #13 really brings them to the forefront which goes far to make it one of the best book of the series in a long while. We get all the snappy dialogue and hard ass action we would expect. Brett plays a minor role which is OK since the meat of the plot is always centered around the rapport of liberal and idealistic Hap and conservative and overly aggressive Leonard. But here is where I need to discuss something that is both disturbing and exciting that I am catching in the last two novels.
As the series goes, we always expect Leonard Pine to be the one most likely to kick ass. Hap kicks ass too but it is usually reluctantly. Yet as the last two novels plays out, and all the novels are in the first person perspective of Hap Collins, Leonard is more blatantly expressing a darkness that was always there. Hap realizes it and seems to know that he has no control over Leonard and that darkness. The thing is, after 13 novels, where is Joe R. Lansdale leading us? Will this bode well or ill for the macho bromance that is Hap and Leonard. I hope the author follows through on this because it could be taking the series out of its very popular formula and leading us in new and very tense territory. For this book, it is one of the thing that vaults this book out of the formula and keeps me guessing where the two friends may be headed. Do the other readers of the series agree with me or do they think I'm off the rails a bit? Let me know.
The Hap and Leonard series is one of those series that I highly recommend starting from the beginning. However if you are reluctant to do that, this one is stand alone enough to enjoy on its own merits. Ten to one odds though, after you are through you will be picking up the rest of them.