I’d kind of gotten off the book treadmill, what with trying to read the Internet in real time. But for some reason I’ve read a stack of books in recent weeks. One of them was The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard, who, Wikipedia tells me, has been publishing novels since before I was born. It’s pretty good and, like every book Leonard’s ever written, has flows of dialogue that pull you along and make you smile just at the joy of written spoken English, done well. It’s a pre-Depression gangster novel; the main characters (and they’re all well-done) are synthetic, but Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, Jay McShann, and other real people of the period hover around the edges. I enjoyed reading it but have a gripe; too much real dumbass gunplay, a big piece of the flying-lead plot is about Our Hero’s ability to draw faster than the bad guys. Therefore, a pointer to another Leonard, 1998’s The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, a collection of nineteen short-form Westerns written between the Fifties and Eighties. The violence is implicit, threatened, scary, off-stage, and very real, but it doesn’t happen much in the actual narrative sequence. The prose is amazingly lean; pared down almost to the level of a haiku. If you open this one up leave yourself two or three hours before you go to bed, because you won’t be closing it.


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September 20, 2006
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