Thursday, June 13, 2013

Maximum Bob (Elmore Leonard, 1991)

Quiz time! What connects following people: redneck white trash Elvin Crowe and his redneck white trash nephew Dale Junior, pot-head (turning into crack head) ex-doctor Tommy, parole officer Kathy Baker and ex-mermaid at the Weeki Wachee Aqua Bar who communicates with a twelve years old slave girl dead for more than one hundred years? And lets also drop in this weird mix a hungry alligator left on a porch.

Answer: Judge Bob Gibbs! Nicknamed Maximum Bob for "lenient" judgments he is known for giving his clients. And also a racist, misogynist, primitive, horny dirty old man. In short - another redneck. Btw, he's Harry Dean Stanton look-alike.

And there are more, much more of these adorable oddballs. We have a policeman Gary aka "hair puller", Dr. Tommy's homosexual (I think) servant Hector, Elvin's woman (and Tommy's) drug dealer Earlene who is a night club dancer (so everyone calls her a go-go whore) and - last but not least - few other respectful members of the Crowe clan. You see, Dale Junior is just "a dumb kid who thinks he's tough" and Elvin is simply insane, but there's also his illiterate one-legged, bedridden brother Dale Senior. Plus his wife Mavis's greedy and "alligator looking" sister Inez who is married to an alcoholic Dicky. So it's almost a good thing that Dale and Elvin's brother Roland is already dead because HE used to be the craziest S.O.B. of the three brothers and I'm not sure that novel could take another one of these crazy rednecks...

So it's all about characters. Maestro Leonard moves them around like pieces on the chess board. Some suddenly re-appear after being absent for a while (Bob's crazy wife), some are used just once (Inez) and some are simply and unexpectedly terminated (no names, I won't give away any spoilers!). Same goes for their roles - we start with Dale Junior as a main villain but gradually Elvin steps into his place. Tommy is at the beginning just a marginal character but he and his servant Hector are gradually getting more and more importance. Masterful characterizations, always on the right side of the thin line that separates believable and too farcical.

Story is great although I did notice one or two small plot holes and ending deserves more intense climax. It probably also wouldn't lose much if that romantic subplot would be dropped altogether.

But it doesn't really matter since it is written superbly. I think the ratio between characterizations, dialogues, other descriptions (complex legal system is a good example) and events themselves is just about perfect. Narration is combined by mixing three main protagonists stories and by using this technique author manages to adjust the pace as he wishes. Fancy words; I guess I'm just trying to say that Leonard grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go unless he wants to give you some breathing space! This style is perfected to the max in the chapter where Kathy interviews Leanne and Elvin follows Gary to a hairdresser. Two trivial and almost banal little episodes are inter-cut in the perfect timing and great tensions is created by using one's ending as a cue to the beginning of other. We know that shit will go down, but Leonard just keeps teasing and postponing and teasing again. So fucking good you simply cannot stop reading it.

I'm not religious about Elmore Leonard but this one is truly brilliant. Pretty unique stuff aside of course from Charles Willeford. I'm so glad Maximum Bob is his debut on my blog, there will be others following for sure. Any suggestions?



Hard to pinpoint actually because there are three main protagonists in this one. But since it is titled after him, it's gotta be the judge Bob Gibbs aka Maximum Bob

North of Miami - Palm Beach, Lantana, Ocen Ridge

Body count: 4

Kathy Baker, probation officer. Earlene, "go-go whore"

Blackouts: /

Hilarious and to be honest it was the main reason why I've taken the book of the shelf at Waterstones and checked it out. And a great nickname for the next cool Robert I will meet! 

Great, great picture of Elvin sitting on his porch wearing cowboy hat, holding a gun and surrounded with empty "longneck" beer bottles. And of course alligator lurking in the background. So very cool and capturing the spirit of novel perfectly. I'm really surprised that its author is not stated.

Cool lines:  
He could tear up the house when he got mad, 'specially when his stump bothered him, as it was doing now. Mavis said the only way to protect herself and all their dishes was to hide his artificial leg on him.

Elvin spoke of prison for a while, about sports and movies, making it sound not too bad. Though advised Dale to get laid tonight; be his last shot at some front-door lovin'.[The Coolest!]

Booger music was coming out of hidden speakers and the go-go whore was moving to it on the terazzo floor, looking around bug-eyed like she's died and gone to whore heaven.

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