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Captains Outrageous (Hap & Leonard, book 6)

Captains Outrageous - Joe R. Lansdale I finished Rumble Tumble, Lansdale's fifth entry into the Hap & Leonard series, earlier this year as part of my Unfinished Series project. Given that the books weren't really part of a series as the rest of the books (they really just feature recurring characters, and aren't books that comprise a single story), I didn't see the need to track down the rest of the books in that series to finish them out. I figured I would get to them as I had the time, but then I was at the library picking up another book, and noticed that my branch -- one of the backwoods branches in a somewhat large district -- had four of the books right there. It's hard to pass up an opportunity like that.

Captains Outrageous is a fairly atypical Hap & Leonard novel, which is to say that it's full of characters that aren't somehow oddball and quirky. Considering that Rumble Tumble was populated with a smart-mouthed Little Person and an ex-reverend assassin, I was surprised to find a fairly normal cast of characters. We have Hap and Leonard, of course, but Leonard's boyfriend is a well-dressed guy who works at an aluminum chair factory, and the folks that Hap and Leonard encounter on their adventure are an older man who runs a fishing boat and his daughter, and then later they run into a rich asshole who's easy to despise, but he's otherwise normal. No one's missing limbs or appendages, no one has any weird physical deformity, and there are even fewer wise-ass attitudes present here. It's almost like I'm not even reading a Lansdale book!

The events that lead to Hap and Leonard's adventure this time are a bit random and convoluted, sort of like how most of the recent episodes of The Simpsons begin. Hap saves a woman from being beaten to death, who happens to be the daughter of the owner of the chicken processing plant where he and Leonard are working. Said father is so grateful that he gives Hap $100,000 and a month off for both Hap and Leonard, and the two of them are talked into taking a cruise by John, Leonard's boyfriend, even though neither one of them has ever really wanted to go on a cruise. But it's the cruise that takes them to Mexico, and it's in Mexico where this particular adventure really begins.

Anyone who's read the Hap & Leonard series, or anyone who has read any of Lansdale's fiction, will recognize this as another in a long line of Lansdale romps, but I can't say that this is his best effort. Along with the lack of the usual Lansdale weirdness, the plot just isn't as engaging. It's too loose, and the ending is anticlimactic. It's definitely not as bad as Lost Echoes, but it's not as good as Sunset and Sawdust, either (though that one is so good I should just stop comparing his other novels to it). I'd say it's probably on par with Leather Maiden -- fun and engaging to read, but largely forgettable and not indicative of what Lansdale can do when he's turned the gas on high.