When you’re at the top of your game, you lay yourself open to any kind of kooky complaint, but Elmore Leonard always delivers more than he promises and this reviewer can’t imagine turning a thumbs down on the guy. His latest offering, The Hot Kid, serves up not one but three hot kids – the psychopathic crook, the ambitious reporter, and the U.S. Marshall who only shoots to kill.
Carl Webster is the Marshall with a chip on his shoulder (his real name is Carlos), and he’s out to get his man. Jack Belmont is a piece of Texas detritus who grew up with every advantage and started his life of slime by attempting unsuccessfully to drown his baby sister. Tony Antonelli is a newspaper guy who smells a great story in the cold hatred between the two men and sees, in between them, the shadow of the soon-to-become legendary Pretty Boy Floyd.
“Jack Belmont’s a young dude. Must have a dozen suits and pairs of shoes.”The setting is oil-boom Texas in the thirties. There is an understated backdrop of coal miner’s strikes, raids by the Ku Klux Klan, and the high lonesome sound of the Carter Family on the radio waves. There is a plot that twists like a desert sidewinder.
“How come I’ve never heard of him?”
“You will. Carl Webster’s after him.”
And there is a woman, Louly, who can handle a pistol and who moves up from hometown girl to gun moll to the sweetheart of the Texas Ranger himself.
From beginning to end the book holds you down and socks you around like it’s supposed to. Leonard has the charm of writing dialogue like it just fell out of somebody’s mouth, and for that this reviewer admires him. Kudos.