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Rusty Puppy: A Hap and Leonard Novel


Rusty Puppy: A Hap and Leonard Novel

It seems as if Joe R. Lansdale has been around forever. He has been. I wrote his name on a “must read” list after being exposed to his novel ACT OF LOVE in 1981. I have tried to keep up with his prodigious output --- which cuts across genre and media, and length, width and breadth, a quantity that never sacrifices quality --- but I cannot. I could probably read it all quickly enough, but Lansdale, like his characters, never forgets who he is and where he comes from. He accordingly makes sure that the smaller “boutique” publishers get a taste of his genius as well, which will guarantee a sold-old print run to keep the printer going for another year or so.

Lansdale is arguably best known for his Hap and Leonard series, which found itself adapted for television in 2016, managing not only to come close to being as good as the source material but also to get itself renewed for a second season (which will premiere March 15th on SundanceTV) in the process. RUSTY PUPPY, the newly published 12th Hap and Leonard novel, makes a couple of discreet nods to the TV series, but it is still all Lansdale, all the time.

"RUSTY PUPPY is nothing short of terrific... You will find yourself wondering more than once how Lansdale thinks this stuff up, but you’ll have too much fun reading it to linger long on the issue."

When we last saw Hap and Leonard at the conclusion of HONKY TONK SAMURAI, it appeared that Hap’s ongoing participation in the series on this side of the veil was in doubt, looking as it did for just a half-minute or so that he had gone to that great farm in the sky. I don’t think I’m giving away much when I say that he is back in fine form at the beginning of RUSTY PUPPY, his first person narrative somewhat bloodied but as always unbowed.

Hap and Leonard, newly and dubiously minted private investigators, are asked by a woman named Louise Elton to investigate the death of her son Jamar, who was rumored to have been killed by some rogue police officers. Jamar, a star student who held no truck with hoodlums or drug dealers, had been investigating the police after they arrested and harassed his mother for allegedly driving under the influence, a charge for which she was never arrested. The trail Hap and Leonard follow leads to the police department as well as a local housing project.

As one might expect, there is much more going on than the beating of a young man that went terribly out of control. This, of course, puts Hap, Leonard and their loved ones in the crosshairs as well, and while the odds may seem to be against the apparently mismatched duo, they are not without their own considerable resources on both sides of the law. As has been the case since they were introduced in SAVAGE SEASON, the interplay, relationship and dark-humored repartee between Hap and Leonard is the primary draw that brings readers to this series.

RUSTY PUPPY is nothing short of terrific, even though you really don’t want to know what a “rusty puppy” is (too much information). You will find yourself wondering more than once how Lansdale thinks this stuff up, but you’ll have too much fun reading it to linger long on the issue. And if you can’t wait for Hap and Leonard’s next appearance, I have great news: BLOOD AND LEMONADE, a mosaic novel, will be published on March 14th. Where Hap and Leonard are concerned, there is no such thing as too much.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 2, 2017

Rusty Puppy: A Hap and Leonard Novel
by Joe R. Lansdale

  • Publication Date: February 20, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 031631157X
  • ISBN-13: 9780316311571