Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Top 10 Elmore Leonard Books: #7

As promised, I will continue my list. It likely won't be one a week, though. I might just run through them in the next couple of weeks.

7. Rum Punch, 1992

Rum Punch is better known for the 1997 Quentin Tarantino movie it became, and as well it should be, which I will get into a little later. As a book, though, this is easily one of his best because Leonard is able to take multiple story lines and weave them together without even breaking a sweat.

In fact, the prose is what stands out to me in this book. I can't think of a book where Leonard was so at ease and so lyrical. He moves from scene to scene, character to character, and making it look so relaxed and so good. In the previous book, Maximum Bob (not on the list) it didn't look so easy. The characters weren't that interesting, though they were colorful, and the plot seemed to be stuck on autopilot. Not so with Rum Punch. Double-and-triple crosses happen with regularity and when they aren't talking Leonard is making his prose work for him like never before.

Rum Punch is an ensemble book like Maximum Bob with a woman in the lead, more or less. It is worth noting, though, that she debuts fifty pages in and even then she's only in the book maybe thirty-five, forty percent of the time. She's certainly the catalyst for the plot, but as far as scenes go she's competing with Nicolet, Ordell, Louis, Max, and even some jackboy thugs who learn why they should have stayed in school in one hilarious scene. We start with all of these disparate threads and Leonard keeps building and building until the final fifty pages when the body count explodes. The best part? Doesn't feel rushed or sloppy.

If there is a flaw, I would have liked more time with Jackie and Ordell and Max. Nicolet and the cop angle, while important, seems more like an aside. I was more interested in the half-million dollars and less about the guns Ordell is selling.

Fun Facts: Leonard aficionados know this is, of course, a quasi-sequel to The Switch, which features Louis, Ordell, Melanie, and Cedric Walker. Walker makes a return of sorts in 1995's Riding the Rap as an off-stage catalyst for a crucial scene in the book.

Movie capsule review: Tarantino's 1997 version, Jackie Brown, changed Jackie's name and her skin color, but none of her spunk. Tarantino was a huge fan of Leonard and it clearly shows. He is able to retain most of the dialogue while adding a few touches of his own in spots. He streamlines the story a bit by cutting out the gun subplot with the Neo-Nazis and keeps the focus on the characters and on their language. It may run a bit long for some, but with dialogue and characters this good why quibble? Until Justified came along this was the definitive Elmore Leonard adaptation. Grade: A

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Apologies for the absence

Well, I haven't been on this thing for two months or so, but I had a pretty good reason, I think. I went to the wall fighting what will be my second book, Avarice, and the production consumed me to the point where I didn't want to be distracted by anything else so I went dark. The book was finished three weeks ago and is going into the editing phase now. I don't think a lot of major work needs to be done, though there will be a few scenes added to help a few characters and a few things re-written, but overall it turned out pretty well, considering. Is it a better book than Coercion? I don't know. Artists are their own worst critics so you probably shouldn't take anything we say too seriously in the first place. The best thing I can say is I don't feel like I repeated myself with this book, which is often the challenge a lot of writers face with their second book. Granted, this isn't my second novel in the grand scheme of things, but in terms of this being my second "published" book it was a challenge because I wanted to make sure it was different enough to stand on its own merits. While it is certainly a crime novel and is set in the same Oak Villa universe, there are enough differences to where they don't feel like clones.

I do regret leaving this blog for the reason that I never got to finish my top 10 list for the Elmore Leonard books. It was probably a mistake to put myself under that kind of artificial deadline in the first place, particularly when I try to avoid reading books whilst in the middle of production. I might continue with the rest of the top 10 just so I don't feel like I cheated anyone who might have been reading this. The traffic from the fans on the Elmore Leonard facebook page are appreciated along with the webmaster, Gregg Sutter, who was kind enough to link my posts.

As for the third season of Justified, well, it was the best season yet and they have set the stage for a great fourth season. I hope Adam Arkin returns as Theo Tonin and I am very interested to see what kind of situation Boyd and Wynn find themselves in as well as Limehouse. They have to bring that triangle back and see what develops from there. As for the rest, well, we'll see.

Hopefully I return to a semi-regular posting state here. Beats the shit out of doing an interview. Not that I've received an offer as of yet.

Avarice, with any luck, will be released by June 1.