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Up in Honey's Room: A Novelby Elmore Leonard
Synopses & Reviews
The odd thing about Walter Schoen, German born but now running a butcher shop in Detroit, he's a dead ringer for Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the Gestapo. They even share the same birthday.
Honey Deal, Walter's American wife, doesn't know that Walter is a member of a spy ring that sends U.S. war production data to Germany and gives shelter to escaped German prisoners of war. But she's tired of telling him jokes he doesn't understand — it's time to get a divorce.
Along comes Carl Webster, the hot kid of the Marshals Service. He's looking for Jurgen Schrenk, a former Afrika Korps officer who escaped from a POW camp in Oklahoma. Carl's pretty sure Walter's involved with keeping Schrenk hidden, so Carl gets to know Honey, hoping she'll take him to Walter. Carl then meets Vera Mezwa, the nifty Ukrainian head of the spy ring who's better looking than Mata Hari, and her tricky lover Bohdan with the Buster Brown haircut and a sly way of killing.
Honey's a free spirit; she likes the hot kid marshal and doesn't much care that he's married. But all Carl wants is to get Jurgen Schrenk without getting shot. And then there's Otto — the Waffen-SS major who runs away with a nice Jewish girl. It's Elmore Leonard's world — gritty, funny, and full of surprises.
"Set in the waning days of WWII, bestseller Leonard's disappointing 40th novel finds gunslinging U.S. marshal Carl Webster, introduced in 2005's The Hot Kid, on the trail of Jurgen Schrenk and Otto Penzler, German POWs escaped from their Okmulgee, Okla., detention camp. The pair wind up in Detroit in the care of Walter Schoen, a butcher and Himmler look-alike, with whose ex-wife, wisecracking bottle-blonde Honey Deal, Carl soon finds himself smitten. While married Carl contemplates breaking his marriage vows (Honey does anything but dissuade him), Otto disappears and a dysfunctional German spy ringled by hard-drinking Vera Mezwa and her cross-dressing manservant, Bohdancozies up with Jurgen. Vera and Bohdan, meanwhile, are secretly planning to disappear, but Bohdan wants to put in the ground anyone who could later give them up to the Feds. Leonard's writingline by lineis as sharp as ever, but the plotting is uncharacteristically clunky and the pacing is stuck in low gear. Leonard has written a lot of great books, but this isn't one of them." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Set in the waning days of WWII, bestseller Leonard's disappointing 40th novel finds gunslinging U.S. marshal Carl Webster, introduced in 2005's The Hot Kid, on the trail of Jurgen Schrenk and Otto Penzler, German POWs escaped from their Okmulgee, Okla., detention camp. The pair wind up in Detroit in the care of Walter Schoen, a butcher and Himmler look-alike, with whose ex-wife, wisecracking bottle-blonde Honey Deal, Carl soon finds himself smitten. While married Carl contemplates breaking his marriage vows (Honey does anything but dissuade him), Otto disappears and a dysfunctional German spy ring — led by hard-drinking Vera Mezwa and her cross-dressing manservant, Bohdan — cozies up with Jurgen. Vera and Bohdan, meanwhile, are secretly planning to disappear, but Bohdan wants to put in the ground anyone who could later give them up to the Feds. Leonard's writing — line by line — is as sharp as ever, but the plotting is uncharacteristically clunky and the pacing is stuck in low gear. Leonard has written a lot of great books, but this isn't one of them." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I'm not going to say that this is the best novel Elmore Leonard ever wrote, or even that it's in his top 10. But reading 'Up in Honey's Room' is like dancing with the stars, and he's the star. You don't have to teach him anything or look for flaws in the smoothness of his steps or watch to see whether there will be gaps in his plots, or whether his characters will — if even for an instant — slip... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) out of character. You just get to be lost in the dance with him as he gives unimaginable depth and dimension to the phrase 'easily and effortlessly.' He leads; you follow. It's late in Elmore Leonard's life; he's written more than 40 books in his 80-plus years. And 'Up in Honey's Room' is a smiling diversion, written as much for himself as anybody else — a reprise, a roundup, a trip down his own memory lane. The novel is a sequel (at least in theory), another adventure of Carl Webster, a federal marshal lately out of Oklahoma who has killed so many crooks in his day that he's gotten a book written about him and been dubbed 'The Hot Kid' by the feckless press. Carl's dad is a pecan farmer, and they hang out a lot together when Carl's not crime-fighting. But this novel is set in the last year or so of World War II, and Carl sets out to catch a couple of escaped German prisoners who appear to have gone to Detroit to make contact with a German spy ring. And what a sketchy gang of spies this is. There's some crazy dude who hates African Americans beyond words but who spends all his time in black brothels; Vera, who's not German at all but a Ukrainian femme fatale; her young lover Bohdan, who's seen too much killing in the European Theater and usually settles his nerves by dressing in women's clothes. Then there's the pathetic Walter Schoen, who runs a butcher shop and whose greatest pride in life is that he's a dead ringer for the odious war criminal Heinrich Himmler. The escaped prisoners of war are Otto and Jurgen, pretty nice guys actually. Since the war is almost over, much of what drives this plot is going to become moot in a matter of months. Everybody's thinking, albeit idly, about what they're going to do when Germany surrenders. What's the girl named Honey got to do with any of this? Back in the day, she was married to the dimwit Walter, who based his sense of humor on his own chronic flatulence. Soon enough, Honey realized her mistake and dumped him. She lives independently now, in an upstairs apartment, from the income she makes selling 'better dresses' in Hudson's Department Store. Carl, looking for Jurgen and Otto, happens to question Honey about her loser, Heinrich Himmler-lookalike ex-husband. Carl's as darling as they come, it goes without saying, and Honey makes it a personal goal to see whether she can entice him into the sack. But Carl is married now, to a brave and plucky military sharpshooter named Louly, and he's promised her — within reason — to remain faithful. With the exception of Louly, these characters roam through wartime Detroit, eating good restaurant dinners, drinking good liquor, shooting at each other. As always in Leonard novels, there's a subplot that tells us stuff we might not have ever thought about — how the world actually works or might work. Sometimes it's the undertaking business or bounty hunting or how to raise grapefruit; in this case, it's the American meat business and how the war, rationing and the black market have changed it. There's a new kind of cattle rustling going on, which doesn't involve horses and lassos and all that, but pickup trucks and old barns turned into improvised abattoirs. Walter has been freelancing in this enterprise and so has Honey's ex-con brother, Darcy, who remarks, in conversation with Jurgen: 'I'm an outlaw. I been one since I was a kid. I stole cars, I sold moonshine, I hit guys.' Jurgen takes a shine to Darcy's spurs. The German doesn't want to become a criminal, but being a cowboy sounds like fun. Or maybe a rodeo rider? It seems as though it would be a drag to go back to the old country after the war. And so it goes. The author lets his characters talk about literature; he depicts father-and-son scenes with Carl and his dad; he manages to get four or five people senselessly murdered. He sets up what might turn out to be a massacre in which several characters must remove their clothes before anything else happens. (The author seems to love these naked scenes; in another of his books, there's a holdup in a posh country club where the rich are forced to reveal their paunches. But up in Honey's room, folks just strip and go on talking, being cool.) We see Jurgen turn into an ever more likable guy. He's an explorer in the New World, full of curiosity about everything he sees. Is there an allusion here to James Branch Cabell's 'Jurgen,' literary seeker from the first part of the past century? Could be. This book is full of nostalgia. We hear about the then-famous Norden Bombsight and get extra information about the 6.5 Mannlicher (a rifle that killed more than one person in my own family). We hear Billie Holiday records and Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats. We see Vera wearing a Persian lamb coat. It's World War II the way we wish it had been, with men as competent as they are handsome and women amorous and good-natured, never gooey. In a way, you can't call the works of Elmore Leonard 'literature.' That would be a kind of insult. These are healing moments caught between book covers. Minor and major miracles. The works of a genuine star." Reviewed by Kevin Allman, a frequent mystery reviewerJames A. Miller, who is chairman of the American studies department at George Washington University.Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"It's as if the best of Mel Brooks and Quentin Tarantino were refined into something altogether finer and purer....If there is a little more slapstick and a little less crime here than usual, it hardly matters. The talk's the thing. Leonard hooks you with his first quotation mark." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Now in his 80s, and with 43 books to his credit, Leonard springs eternal. His new novel...is both enterprising and lively." Los Angeles Times
"Fast moving, cold-blooded and comic, the action swerves and leaps from one character's adventure to another's, bringing echoes of the major events and everyday life of Detroit and America in the 1940s." Rocky Mountain News
"Leonard's novels give you a better feel for America than any of the brooding fictional meditations on the emptiness of suburbia come close to doing....Leonard also has a keener eye for the absurd than any French existentialist has ever had. To wit: He never, ever fails to see the humor in it." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Leonard clearly loves these characters, and makes their interactions believable and a blast to read." Boston Globe
"Leonard's dialogue is so sharp and jazzy that it's a pleasure listening to his people zing each other into submission." Oregonian
"I'm not going to say that this is the best novel Elmore Leonard ever wrote, or even that it's in his top 10. But reading Up in Honey's Room is like dancing with the stars, and he's the star." Washington Post
Up in Honey's Room is the newest novel in a string of critically acclaimed bestsellers from the renowned master of American crime fiction. Leonard brings his talent for characterization, rich ear for dialogue, and piercing insight to a gripping story set in the years of World War II.
About the Author
Elmore Leonard has written more than three dozen critically acclaimed books during his highly successful career, including the bestsellers The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. He lives with his wife, Christine, in Bloomfield Village, Michigan.
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