by Elmore Leonard
This was my first Elmore Leonard book, even though I don’t know what took me so long since I really enjoyed Out of Sight, Karen Sisco, and Justified. I liked how those characters were really good at one or two things, but also had some faults that usually led them into some kind of trouble. It still gave you someone to root for, even when their mistakes were causing them much annoyance, pain, and most of the time, heartache.
LaBrava is a former secret service agent who is now a portrait and street photographer in Miami. He is friends with a guy who asks for help with an old friend who happens to be an aging movie star that LaBrava has had a crush on since he first saw her movies as a boy. He then gets mixed up in the trouble she has brewing for herself in her personal life.
Reading this at the same time as I’m reading George R.R. Martin is almost like whiplash between the two writing styles. While Martin does a great job with plot and action, he goes into overkill describing what someone is wearing or wasting words on an insignificant character that is never mentioned again. Leonard tells you what you need to know. He gets right to the point. I never felt like I couldn’t imagine a scene or what a character looked like with his minimalist writing style. He used all the necessary words and left out the fluff. It was refreshing.
I read this as part of a book club (#1book140) and we got into a discussion about a bit of sexism towards the end of the book with the character of Franny. She starts off as an interesting character, but then is written off in a way. She has her own hobbies and job when she is interested in LaBrava. As the novel goes on, she disappears for part of it, pops back up, and seems to have lost her own self. Her new hobbies are the same as LaBrava. She pouts that he didn’t notice she was missing, yet still tells him she’ll be there if he wants her. What happened to that character? Other characters in the novel were more fully realized. I wished her character had been too.
Overall, I really enjoyed his writing style. I liked that the story set-up was brief, but still gave you what you needed to know before the action started. For the most part, he did a good job describing the different characters and you knew their motivation for their actions. I really want to read more of his work, possibly something that I have watched or can watch as a movie or tv series to compare how his work has been translated.