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.
In essence you could call Get Shorty a fun romp. True the plot is multi-layered but there’s a lot of verve running through these pages.
Chili Palmer is a guy who collects money from people who have not paid their debts. Although he is retired he goes to Hollywood for one last job – he has to retrieve cash from a man who has cheated an airport out of three thousand dollars and ran away from his wife.
While he is doing this Chili also finds out that he has to collect money from a director who has also run into a bad debt. Chili is so enamored by the prospect of this he decides to tell the director that he wants to make a movie out of all the events that has happened so far. This director, Harry Zimm, also has a script in mind and wants to push Chili’s ideas at a later date.
On top of this there are two hitmen who are after Chili’s blood and the rest of the book deals with Chili ways of deceiving all the Hollywood types he encounters including Harry Zimm.
Leonard’s characters are beautifully realised – very distinctive and yet you do not hate or love either one. They all have their flaws and redeeming features. I also like the way all the gangster and movie slang is not sacrificed. I personally did not find the book funny. Manic , slightly gripping but no laugh out loud moments. I loved the way all the sub plots were entwined and tied up. For crime fiction this is definitely a step up from the usual fare (saying that all the detective and crime fiction on the list has been exceptional)
When reading Get Shorty, I was reminded of a less eco-friendly Carl Hiaasan. Both use multiple sub-plots and depict their protagonists with distinct characters Leornard is better though as his use of satire is more restrained. However I will be reading LaBrava in the near future so maybe this comparison may not be entirely true.