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Posted: February 7, 2021

Elmore Leonard always pleases me

Book Review

By Derryll White

Leonard, Elmore (1989).  KillShot.

The one thing Elmore Leonard demands from a reader is respect. One has to pay attention, always. The dialogue is precise, building characters and relationships that rise from the page and become real images in the reader’s mind.

Carmen and Wayne Colson have an intimacy, a closeness that encourages one to think of the best relationships of the past, the romances that reoccur in the mind at rest.  Leonard does it all with sharp, distinct dialogue, exchanges that make the reader think “I could live with her” and “I understand why he works high steel – that makes sense.”

A mystery and suspense novel for sure, but ‘KillShot’ is so much more than that. Leonard explores the mind of the adventurous working man, the type who doesn’t want to be calm and satisfied with a boring job.

Wayne Colson works high steel in Toronto. More than that, however, the author builds a female character in Carmen that resolves many of the stereotypes that we still face 30 years later. She is her own woman, comfortable in who she is, able to move through fear and terror with resolution. She gets angry with her husband sometimes, but pauses to think things through and keep the relationship working. She loves him and caters to him but also draws meaning, pleasure and strength from her bond with him. She may be as close to an ideal female character as the world of literature offers.

Elmore Leonard always pleases me and always teaches me something about the craft of writing.

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Excerpts from the novel:

COPS – “Look at that, Bird.  I don’t believe it.”  The Bird looked and didn’t believe it either.  The cop acting emotional, broken up about something.  Cops didn’t do that, they were cold fucking guys that never showed what they felt – if they felt anything.  Here or across the river in Canada cops were the same.

CHANGE – “Every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to be someone else.  See the way they look at things and what their life is really like.”

“You’re telling me,” Wayne said, “you’d rather be somebody else than who you are?”

“No, I don’t mean become someone else, permanently.”

“You’re just nosy then.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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