THE HOT KID

Elmore Leonard, Author
Elmore Leonard, Author . Morrow $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-072422-1
Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
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Leonard's 40th novel, set in the world of 1930s gangsters and gun molls, features characterizations so deft and true you can smell the hair oil on the dudes and the perfume on the dames. Young Carlos Webster tangles with his first gangster at 15, when bank robber Emmet Long robs an Okmulgee, Okla., store, kills an Indian policeman and takes away Carlos's ice cream cone. Seven years later, Carlos, now Carl, a newly minted deputy U.S. marshal, gets his revenge by gunning Long down, an act that wins him the respect of his employers and the adulation of the American public, who follow his every quick-draw exploit in the papers and True Detective magazine. Cinematically, Leonard introduces his characters—Carl's colorful pecan-farmer father, Virgil; Jack Belmont, ne'er-do-well son of a rich oilman; True Detective writer Tony Antonelli; Louly Brown, whose cousin marries Pretty Boy Floyd—in small, self-contained scenes. As the novel moves forward, these characters and others begin to interact, forming liaisons both romantic and criminal. At the stirring conclusion, scores are settled and the good and the bad get sorted out in satisfactorily violent fashion. The writing is pitch-perfect throughout: "It was his son's quiet tone that made Virgil realize, My Lord, but this boy's got a hard bark on him." The setting and tone fall somewhere between Leonard's early westerns and his more recent crime novels, but it's all pure Leonard, and that means it's pure terrific. Agent, Andrew Wiley. (May)

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