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The Hot Kid: A Novelby Elmore Leonard
I've only read two Elmore Leonard books, so I can't say for certain if The Hot Kid is his best novel — but I almost can't imagine a better one. Leonard is at the top of his game here, packing his period cops-and-robbers tale with vivid characters and breezily sketching scenes with a master's shorthand. Where other authors labor over pages of description, Leonard draws the entire scene in your mind with a short, clever paragraph. And as usual in a Leonard novel, the dialogue sparkles. The Hot Kid brings the era of Prohibition, tommy guns, flappers, and bootleggers alive and makes it exhilarating.
"Leonard is such an original storyteller that one can find his world distasteful and still be drawn into it. Strange as it may seem, the challenge of finding a character not too unpleasant to care about, and of predicting what will bring everyone together, is a large part of what makes his opening chapters so irresistible. We seem to be watching real events develop of which the novelist himself knew nothing in advance. And just as in a B movie full of unknowns, there's no telling who will make it to the end." B. R. Myers, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
Carl Webster, the hot kid of the marshals service, is polite, respects his elders, and can shoot a man driving away in an Essex at four hundred yards. Carl works out of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, federal courthouse during the 1930s, the period of America's most notorious bank robbers: Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson — those guys.
Carl wants to be America's most famous lawman. He shot his first felon when he was fifteen years old. With a Winchester.
Louly Brown loves Carl but wants the world to think she is Pretty Boy Floyd's girlfriend.
Tony Antonelli of True Detective magazine wants to write like Richard Harding Davis and wishes cute little Elodie wasn't a whore. She and Heidi and the girls work at Teddy's in Kansas City, where anything goes and the girls wear — what else — teddies.
Jack Belmont wants to rob banks, become public enemy number one, and show his dad, an oil millionaire, he can make it on his own.
With tommy guns, hot cars, speakeasies, cops and robbers, and a former lawman who believes in vigilante justice, all played out against the flapper period of gun molls and Prohibition, The Hot Kid is Elmore Leonard — a true master — at his best.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[The] hottest kid turns out to be the one doing the writing....[A] quieter, deeper, more sanguine novel than Get Shorty fans are used to, one with more heft but less hair-trigger repartee than Mr. Leonard usually delivers." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"You certainly wouldn't expect [Leonard] to have produced his best novel at the age of 79, but he seems to have done it....The Hot Kid is full of textured characters....Leonard's prose is as lean and clean as ever....And the old guy's still got plenty of bite." Stephen King, The Boston Globe
"As always, Leonard's prose seems effortless, his dialogue is perfect, and his humor is as dry as a moonshine martini....[A] terrific pleasure." Booklist
"[W]hen Elmore Leonard's new novel The Hot Kid hits the stores...you will see once again that after all the books and all the years, Leonard remains one of the great American writers." New York Daily News
"Leonard's encyclopedic knowledge of crime history and wry humor make his novels reading experiences to savor....[A] winner in the tradition of Get Shorty and Be Cool." Library Journal
"[G]enial and laid-back. The whole sepia-toned caravan...is so relaxed that even the most violent felonies may leave you smiling. Leonard's gentle epic is as restorative as a month in the country." Kirkus Reviews
"[B]rims with the sly humor, spare prose and razor dialogue we expect from the master....[A] self-assured work by an author at the top of his game. Leonard isn't trying to impress anyone, except maybe the 1930s boy he once was..." Los Angeles Times
"[A] novel that, not very far beneath the surface, is all about style, literary and otherwise....The Hot Kid is noirish and even a little pulpy at times, in the fashion of '30s movies and detective magazines." Charles McGrath, The New York Times
"Clearly, Leonard's having a great time....[A] wild ride through a circuitous tall tale...all taking place in Leonard's Looneyville of lotharios, lovers and law-breakers." Providence Journal
"Leonard is on fire....The Hot Kid shows Leonard at his very best, an accomplished author in total control of his material....Leonard may be in the twilight of his years, but he's still producing vibrant and vital writing." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Classic Elmore Leonard, which means both vintage and great fun." Detroit Free Press
Hot cars, gun molls, speakeasies, bank robbers, and murder are the game in this powerfully entertaining story from Elmore Leonard, the undisputed master of the crime novel. Set in Oklahoma during the 1930s, The Hot Kid introduces Carl Webster, one of the coolest lawmen ever to draw on a fugitive felon.
About the Author
Elmore Leonard has written more than three dozen books during his highly successful writing career, including the bestsellers Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Cuba Libre, and Rum Punch, and his most recent critically acclaimed collection of short stories, When the Women Come Out to Dance. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. He is the recipient of the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife, Christine, in Bloomfield Village, Michigan.
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