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An Interview with Joe R. Lansdale

Author of Vanilla Ride


Joe Lansdale is one of my favourite authors, and he has more than one fan here at MostlyFiction. After reading Lansdale’s fantastic new novelVANILLA RIDE, I hunted him down and he agreed to an interview. For more about Lansdale and his highly entertaining novels, visit his website:

This interview was conducted by Guy Savage for (MF). Read Savage's review of VANILLA RIDE as well.

Vanilla Ride by Joe R. LansdaleMF: Please describe VANILLA RIDE for our readers.

JL: Vanilla Ride is my latest in the Hap Collins and Leonard Pine series, and I think it's one of the best--fast paced, action packed, with a bit of social commentary and humor and a dead armadillo. Oh, and a very scary and unusual assassin named Vanilla Ride.


MF: Tell us about Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

JL: Hap and Leonard are flip sides of the same person in some ways. Hap is very much like me if I had made some bad decisions and hadn't met my wife, without the gunfire, of course. Leonard is someone who keeps him honest, a black, gay, tough guy Republican, though he's more the old school Republican, not the Palin Republican. I think he is kind of a more liberal minded Reagan Republican. They make an interesting couple, and they sort of fill each other's empty spots. They are brothers, if not by blood, by spirit.


MF: VANILLA RIDE is your first Hap and Leonard novel in eight years. How did it feel to write about these two characters again?

JL: It was as natural as getting up in the morning. I love these guys. I didn't realize it had been as long as it had. Wonderful to have them back. I'm writing a new one now.

Joe R. Lansdale


MF: How did you first conceive of Hap and Leonard? How much of you is in these two fictional characters?

JL: I came up with them in the late eighties. I actually came up with Hap, started writing, and Leonard showed up. It was a way for me to write a novel about the impact of the sixties. I've had to stop aging the characters, due to the stop for eight years, and the fact that if I keep aging them they'll be doing their work from the rest home.


MF: Your novels are as funny as they are violent. How difficult is it for you to balance these two elements? Do you find yourself re-writing a great deal?

JL:I don't think about it much. I rewrite a lot per day, but when I finish the book, it's usually due for only a light pass. There are some exceptions, and, of course, I get my editor’s notes.


MF: To quote Charles Willeford regarding living in Miami: “The crime rate—the highest in the nation—provides a writer with an exciting environment.” How does this relate to your Texas Noir novels?

JL: East Texas has goofy crime, and a lot of it falls off the charts. It's the little crimes that interest me, more than the big technological things. It's the guy down the street that wants to steal your lawn ornaments because he can make a few bucks. And when he does, it goes from stupid to bad to worse.


MF: Is your fan base regional? Or in other words, do you think you are more widely read in some areas on the country than others?

JL: It seems to be very broad. The U.S., Italy, big time, France, some in Germany and Japan and Britain and so on.


MF: How is the book tour going?

JL: So far so good. I go out again tomorrow, Phoenix, and then onward to San Francisco, San Mateo, Seattle, and home.


MF: Given the content of your novels—crude, profane with the frequent slam at racism and organized religion do you get hate mail? Love mail?

JL: Now and again I hear from someone, but not often. If I'm not offending someone, I'm not doing my job. But a large number of readers say if it was another writer it would offend them, but they get the satire, the humor. I'm sure there are some who are deeply offended. At least I can hope.


MF: I read that you write 3 hours a day. After working on a Leonard/Hap novel, do you find it hard to switch gears? I mean, after reading one of your novels I find myself swearing even more than usual.

JL: I don't find it that hard. No.


MF: Leonard and Hap seem like a throwback in some ways to cowboy days. Do you agree with that statement?

JL: Yep. I love Westerns, and they are sort of modern Western characters, profane and all.


MF: BUBBA HO-TEP is one of my favourite films. Have you watched the film and if so were you happy with the end results?

JL: I loved the film and thought it was very faithful to the story, which I thought couldn't be filmed. But it was done very well.


MF: Would you tell us what is happening with MISTER WEEDEATER, THE BIG BLOW, and A FINE DARK LINE?

The BottomsJL: A FINE DARK LINE is stalled, MR. WEEDEATER is underway, and THE BIG BLOW seems to be in limbo. I've just finished up a script for THE BOTTOMS, so keep your fingers crossed.


MF: That's great news about THE BOTTOMS, would love to see it as a movie as long as no one messes with your script. What’s next for Joe Lansdale and the team of Hap & Leonard?

JL: Working on one tentatively titled Devil Read. It's a Hap and Leonard book. I won't say more. I like surprises for the readers.


MF: Oh, good! We love your surprises. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us during your tour break.


Read our review of Vanilla Ride at