My first Elmore Leonard novel. He's a terse, pacey author, and The Hot Kid
is pretty much Hollywood in a book, but a nicely-filmed Hollywood with engaging if not terribly deep characters.
It's a 1930s gangster piece. Carlos Webster is the son of a wealthy pecan farmer. At 15 he shot a man who was trying to rustle his cattle. His father observed, "Good lord, this one's got a tough bark on him." He also encounters a wanted felon who, in the course of robbing a store and shooting a tribal police officer, calls Carlos a "greaser."
This sticks in Carlos's craw. Years later, he's Marshal Carl Webster, lawman, "the hot kid" of the US Marshals Service, and his exploits are being reported (and exaggerated a bit) by the newspapers of the time. Carl wants to be the country's most famous lawman.
Jack Belmont is another son of privilege, except he's a spoiled rotten little sociopath. At 15, he tries to blackmail his father by threatening to tell his mother and sister about Dad's mistress. His father laughs at him, then puts him to work in his oil refinery. Jack promptly sets the place on fire and takes off for a life of crime. Jack wants to be the country's most notorious bank robber.
This is a slick action thriller, with tough hombres, seedy roughnecks, sleazy outlaws, gun molls and whores. Not a lot of variety in either the male or female archetypes, and the plot isn't terribly complicated, but Leonard spices it up with plenty of sex and murder and shootouts and pretty decent writing.
3.5 stars. Definitely not a literary gem, but I enjoyed it and would read another by Elmore Leonard. It kind of reminded me of Ian Fleming's Bond novels, except with not quite as much racism and misogyny.