Wednesday, May 25, 2011

hot kid

I love Elmore Leonard's language. I read another of Leonard's books a while ago, and while the subject matter is different, his use of casual, conversational language is the same. I picked up a non-fiction book of his in the store, a handsome hardcover called Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, with illustrations by Joe Ciardiello. I remember the advice being succinct, and delivered in his no-fooling-around voice. The rules were about being invisible as an author, to let the story tell itself, without the author sticking his nose in the story. I think the casual language does that. The narrative reads smooth, in a stream of consciousness way. There are little phrases--packets of meaning--strung together into sentences and paragraphs, that your brain strings up to build the story.

Maybe that's what I like so much. Leonard trusts his reader to fill in the blanks, get over the grammar, and absorb the story.

The Hot Kid takes place about a 80 years ago in Oklahoma. Mostly in and around the Tulsa area, with some parts taking place in Kansas City. John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, and a host of others are active in this post-WWI era time in the country, when prohibition was big, as well as the crime that went along with it. Bank robbers seemed to be vying for the top spot in the papers as the next big, most-wanted man.

The story focuses on a deputy US Marshall named Carl Webster. Webster is what you'd expect a leading man to be: tall, dark and handsome. He also cool in the face of danger, and has a good-natured swagger about him, which makes him attentive to the way he looks, but thoughtful enough to send misguided minor criminals home to think about what they've done, with the admonition to "behave yourselves".

This was a great book to read after the never-ending Sherlock Holmes stories. It was fast, fun and really entertaining.

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