I find it rather difficult to criticise Elmore Leonard. His plots are super tight, characters are interesting and there never is a dull moment in his books. Even the dialogue is rather witty. LaBrava is Leonard on top form and has his most interesting storylines to boot.
Joe LaBrava is an ex agent turned photographer. One day, through a rich friend of his, he comes across a movie star who he idolised in his youth. It turns out though that she’s destitute and is going to be killed by a thug and his cuban sidekick. Soon Labrava starts thinking that he’s in an action film and finds it difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Obviously he gets his way but at a bit of a cost.
Leonard’s crime novels are never whodunnits. He lays everything plain and in your face. The main focus is how his characters are going to get out of sticky situations and their reaction to the crimes committed. Plus his characters are wonderfully fleshed out and realistic so it’s a joy reading about their antics.
After reading a series of experimental novels, books like LaBrava do lighten up the general doom and gloom of the list.
At the moment there will be a bit of a break. No worries I WILL continue with the list but I’m reading a couple of novels that aren’t mentioned in the book as I’m in the mood for some more contemporary lit.
Argh! I just finished one disappointing book only to face ANOTHER let down, the worst thing is that generally I like books in this vein.
Solveig is trampled by a herd of cows, while on her way to sing in a choir performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and her husband cannot cope with this loss. As a result he moves away and his action effects two generations of his family, in the most complex way possible.
Sounds great but i found the novel to be quite tedious at times but thankfully the chapters are short and I was able to read it at a good pace.
Lets hope I wont have a hat trick of dull books!
In a month’s time there will be a new edition of the 1001 list, however I still will be sticking with the second edition and maybe just write a post on the novels that are new. I do wish that the editors would do something about the novels in translation. I’m still dissatisfied with the majority of them and Fado Alexandrino is no exception.
The novel is about five Portuguese soldiers returning from the civil war which took place in Angola in the 70’s. As they sit around a table all five discuss the madness of war and eventually commit an murder which affects the town they live in as well and works as a sort of wake up call.
Fado Alexandrino displays war in all its cartoon insanity, there are passages stuffed with sex, violence and corruption, crossed with complex emotions and anecdotes. The author himself was part of this conflict so I’m sure the novel is autobiographical.
My problem is that I found it dragging. Passage upon passage of detail which I found superfluous, sure the novel is written in the fado style ( twelve chapters of 26 verses, if i’m not mistaken) but I found it a tough slog many times.
So far in attempting this challenge, the books I liked the least were the historical novels in translation so I took quite a deep breath for this one but it turns out that The Witness is pretty good and different as well.
It starts off a sort of Robinson Crusoe story, a young sailor crash lands on an island in the Americas and the whole crew are slaughtered by Indians, with the exception of him. The narrator and the dead crew is brought back into the tribe and stays there for ten years ( the crew are eaten and form part of a ceremony that is equally bizarre and horrifying) . He finds out that every year there is a mass slaughter and one survivor is brought back but usually they let him go.
When he returns to ‘civilisation’, he ruminates on the Indians customs and language and the second half of the novel becomes an anthropological study, which I did not expect at all. Being a student of anthropology, I was reminded of when I had to write a research paper on the Yanomamo tribe and I found lots of parallels.
The Witness is one those books that deserve a lot of reflection, despite its brevity there’s a lot going on so absorb as much as you can.