Sunday, January 29, 2012

Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

Voices of the Dead is the newest book from Peter Leonard. Leonard is the son of the celebrated Elmore Leonard. Peter is proving to be an excellent novel in his own right. The book tells the story of Harry Levin. A young man who escaped Dachau and made a life in Detroit. When his daughter is killed by a drunken driver with German diplomatic papers a chain of events leads him to return to Munich, his childhood home, and to track down the man responsible. Along the way he has to come to grips with his own past, and with the rise of the neo-Nazi movement. Harry is not a super hero or a super sleuth. He is just a man who is not willing that his daughter's killer go unpunished. When he realizes that the man is a former member of the SS and may be a serial killer of Jews, he determines to stop him. The book takes place in the early 1970s with flashbacks to Harry's escape from the Nazis. This is an enjoyable, well-written story of a man seeking justice and caught in a web that he can't escape.

Get Shorty

Get Shorty is considered to be one of Elmore Leonard's great novels. Like all Leonard stories I have encountered it is a wonderful experience to read. The story is amusing. A man who runs a dry cleaning business owes money to a loan shark. He misses a plane, but his luggage doesn't. When the plane goes down the dry cleaner is believed dead. He and his wife keep quite to collect the insurance money and settle a lawsuit with the airline. Once they get the money the man leaves his wife with the cash and heads to Vegas.

Once the loan shark, Chili Palmer, learns that his mark is still alive he goes after him. Palmer takes a side job to collect some money from a Hollywood producer, goes to LA and decides that he would like to break into the movie business. A great deal of hilarity ensues. The book has that distinctive Leonard prose. Short and too the point, with just the right amount of humor. It is a great look at the world of Hollywood through the eyes of a Miami loan shark.

This was made into a film starring John Travolta, Danny DeVito, and Rene Russo. Many Leonard fans consider the film to be an excellent interpretation of the book. I intend to watch at and will let you know.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moonshine War

The Moonshine War is the story of Son Martin a Prohibition Era bootlegger in rural Kentucky. Son's father hid over $100,000 of top grade moonshine. Now Frank Long, an old army buddy of Martin's is looking for it. Long is now a prohibition agent and wants the whiskey for himself. Long brings in some bootleggers to help him and things get hot.

This book was published in 1969, but like all great books, still holds up to repeated readings. This has Leonard's classic style. Heavy emphasis on dialogue, interesting characters, and sudden explosions of violence.

I listened to this as an audiobook. Mark Hammer gave a wonderful reading of the text. His voice captures the sound of the hills and the rhythm of Leonard's prose.

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When The Women Come Out To Dance

First book in the Year of Elmore Leonard. This is a collection of short stories that cover both the crime and western genres. There are some familiar names here. A fun Karen Sisco story and a story about the grandson of Carl Webster. The highlight for many will be the Raylan Givens story "Fire in the Hole." This is the story that inspired the FX series Justified. This is classic Leonard writing and is a pleasure to read. You could read this book straight through and then come back and just savor the stories individually from time to time.

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Elmore Leonard in One Year

I discovered Elmore Leonard by accident. A few of his western short stories hooked me. Then Justified came out and I started reading his crime stories. I believe that Leonard is the finest, living American author. So this year I plan to read his complete works. There are 45 novels and short story collections. I am looking forward to this.

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