One of the running gags in the Hap & Leonard books is that Leonard loves himself some vanilla cookies. Given that piece of trivia, I expected the title of this book to somehow relate to that obsession. I was surprised to see that it wasn't.
This time around, Hap and Leonard find themselves going up against some low-level drug dealers after they get involved rescuing a friend's daughter from said dealers. The two miscreants manage to rescue the daughter, get the dealers on their bad side, and then have to deal with that fallout. The fallout leads to another set of circumstances, which leads them to another group of people, and so on and so forth until a lot of violence and witticisms are thrown about.
Summarizing a Hap & Leonard book makes them sound kinda stupid and a little bit ridiculous, but the thing is, reading a Lansdale book is an experience that can't be matched by other writers. The stories might sound a little ridiculous when you're explaining them to someone else, but the real treat is Lansdale's voice. He has a real knack for dialogue and voice, and his imagination for characters and odd events makes any of his books a wild ride. Captains Outrageous was a bit of a disappointment because it read more like a standard crime novel than a Lansdale novel, but it's worth noting that he's back on track with Vanilla Ride. There was an eight-year gap between those two novels, though, and in that time, he managed to write A Fine Dark Line and Sunset and Sawdust, so that this one is so much better doesn't surprise me at all.
It's not necessary to read all of the Hap & Leonard books in order. It helps, since there are usually throw-backs to characters from previous works, but Lansdale gives us one or two sentences to explain who they are and what role they've played. It's neat, though, to have the whole picture and know all the details from the previous books. But you don't have to worry that the antagonist who shows up in one novel is one that the boys have already encountered, and is looking for some revenge; each novel is self-contained.
Lansdale fans should definitely seek out Vanilla Ride. The rest of you might like it, too, but this far into the series, it might be worth starting at the beginning with Savage Season.