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The Hot Kid    by Elmore Leonard order for
Hot Kid
by Elmore Leonard
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Carl Webster is a federal marshall in the 1930s (back when John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd were keeping the marshall service hopping). At twelve, Carl witnessed the killing of a sheriff's deputy. At fifteen, he shot his first felon, who was trying to rustle Carl's cattle. Where else could he do but go into law enforcement? Jack Belmont wants to become Public Enemy No. 1. His ineptitude keeps cropping up. Louly loves Carl, but wants to be known as Pretty Boy Floyd's girlfriend.

Jack has sworn to kill Carl. How he comes to that decision is recounted in The Hot Kid, Elmore Leonard's (if I counted right) 42nd book! Leonard never rides on his past writing. He always comes up with something new and exciting. This time, the era serves him well. He brings it alive with his skill at depicting the characters in their habitat. He shows us Ford motor cars that can be started by turning a coin in the ignition. Teddies are worn by the ladies of the night. The food, the movies, the clothes all reek of the thirties, bringing authenticity to the tale.

The fictitious characters are wonderfully wrought and blend in well with the real life ones. Carl's father, a hero of the Spanish American War retains a taciturnity that is enviable. Tony Antonelli, a journalist for True Crimes, wants to be a prize-winning author. Lou, a strong arm for a local crime lord, can't seem to get it right. Heidi, a waitress in a roadhouse, starts her own house of ill repute and thinks she's found her calling.

After finishing about a quarter of the book, I wasn't sure when the story would start. But then I realized that I was already right in the middle of it. The action rises from a well-rounded back-story. It then proceeds to hold the reader's rapt attention until the explosive ending. I can't think of a better way to spend free time than by reading Elmore Leonard's latest.

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