Skip to main content

Jackrabbit Smile: A Hap and Leonard Novel


Jackrabbit Smile: A Hap and Leonard Novel

It is nice to see Joe R. Lansdale starting to get some proper recognition. As the result of yeoman’s work over the course of the last three-plus decades, Lansdale is closing in on the 50-novel mark without a bad one in the bunch. And thanks to the television adaptation of his Hap and Leonard series, he is finally becoming something close to a household name.

JACKRABBIT SMILE, his latest Hap and Leonard caper, appears to be aimed at those folks who are newly aware of his work thanks to the fine Sundance TV drama, although it sticks closely to his trademark style. The book kicks off with the marriage of Hap Collins and Brett Sawyer, the latter of whom is the owner of the detective agency that employs Hap and his opposites-attract BFF, Leonard Pine. But they are only a few hours into their west Texas-style reception when the party is crashed by an unlikely mother-son pair. Judith Mulhaney and Thomas are a couple of white racists who reluctantly retain Hap and Leonard to find Jackie, Judith’s daughter and Thomas’ sister. Jackie, affectionately nicknamed “Jackrabbit” due to a set of prominent front teeth, has been out of their family life for years, but word has gotten back to them that she seemingly has vanished.

"[JACKRABBIT SMILE] contains some of [Lansdale's] best writing... Strongly recommended, particularly for those coming aboard as a result of the television series."

Hap and Leonard reluctantly take the case --- yes, there is more than enough reluctance to go around in JACKRABBIT SMILE --- and the trail leads right back to Marvel Creek, the dusty Texas town where Hap and Leonard grew up. It’s not exactly a happy homecoming for a lot of reasons from the past and the present. One of them is that Hap would rather be at home enjoying the conjugal bliss of the newly married, while Leonard would prefer to be at home, period. It beats farm work, though, and the Mulhaneys are paying clients. So investigate they do, and they find among other things that the lovely Jackrabbit has left a trail of dead bodies in her wake. While she may have disappeared, the people who were around her continue to die, violently and involuntarily.

With the occasional help of local law enforcement, Hap and Leonard follow the clues, even as they are dissuaded by a wealthy local businessman bent on turning the community into a paradise of his own liking. This does nothing other than encourage Hap and Leonard. The powder keeps getting loaded into the keg, and the final fourth or so of the book puts readers on the edge of their seats. The story ends with a very satisfying chain reaction, even if an innocent does get caught in the crossfire. I had to read one scene over a couple of times, wondering Did Lansdale really go there? Yes, he did. And that’s why I read every word the man writes.

While JACKRABBIT SMILE is not Lansdale’s best or worst book --- he really doesn’t have a “worst” one --- it contains some of his best writing, including a new phrase that seems to be an original. You’ll love it. It’s a term for a manifestation of obesity that incorporates the condition’s etiology. You’ll know it when you see it. If there is a fault with the novel, it’s that the first third or so is a bit top-heavy with virtue signaling and is light on the humor, violence and metaphors for which we all came. Still, that absence is more than balanced out by the presence of same throughout the remainder of the book.

Strongly recommended, particularly for those coming aboard as a result of the television series.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 30, 2018

Jackrabbit Smile: A Hap and Leonard Novel
by Joe R. Lansdale

  • Publication Date: March 26, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 031631160X
  • ISBN-13: 9780316311601