Monday, September 23, 2013

City Primeval (Elmore Leonard, 1980)

The last one of the grandmasters is gone. Not exactly tragic considering his age and recent health problems but still very sad. But fuck it - this is a hard-boiled blog so instead of whining about it, I gave my respect to the main man by reading some of his brilliant stuff. Just went to the bookstore and picked up the book with the coolest cover (not easy task at all thanks to Tim Marrs) that I haven't read yet.

Starts very originally and very funny by quoting the report of "Investigation of the Judicial Tenure Commission" against the judge Alvin B. Guy. Hilarious reading! We know all about Leonard's crazy characters (and love them all!) but it needs to be said that this guy ranks high in his weirdness top ten chart. In short - he's even bigger asshole than Maximum Bob.

It's too bad he doesn't last very long though because he gets killed right away in the next chapter by the mandatory psycho. In City Primeval this honor belongs to 'Oklahoma Wildman' Clement Mansell who "likes to live dangerously and likes to kill people". He's an okay psychopath/sociopath but my problem with him was that I just couldn't decide whether I liked him or not. Which is not necessary bad thing, right?

But did have a much bigger problem with our hero detective Raymond Cruz who gets assigned on judge's murder investigation. Won't go into his family shit or macho bullshit or psychological crap, let's just say that he's simply not very convincing or interesting.

So after super promising judge asshole we are left with a mediocre villain and dull policeman. Plus the usual partner (btw Hunter is also cool but totally underused!), hot blonde pot-head bimbo, hot bitchy criminal lawyer and some shady underworld figures with ridiculous names (like Skender Lulgjaraj for fuck's sake!). Decent cast, but not great. At least not in Elmore Leonard world.

Major flaw is the story and lack of good plot. Which is even more obvious since the whole thing is basically character driven so its foundations are not very strong to begin with. After the furious start (car chase, followed by the double killing) it just doesn't move anywhere. It gets stuck somewhere between character study and standard police procedural. Instead of some new events being introduced, Cruz falls for Carolyn and shit like that.

There was a moment though when I had hoped that pace was about to finally shift a gear up. When Albanian gangster Toma arrives at the scene it's pretty obvious that he's a mean bastard who'll make things happen. Check out his exchange of Steven Seagal like bad-ass one-liners with Raymond:

You do what you have to do, I do what I have to do.
No, it's not that simple, because I want him too.
You always look in their eyes?
If there's time.
It takes time.
No, it doesn't. Tell me where to find him. It takes only a few minutes.

A bit silly, but still cool. But it just goes on for too long and becomes tedious game of whose dick is bigger. But must admit that conclusion is cool because Hunter simply comments that "Fucking Albanians are crazy"

It is funny, there's some sex and some action so even though it turns into a predictable thriller towards the end, it is still very enjoyable reading right until the final showdown. Without giving away too much, let's just say I didn't choose the word showdown as a metaphor. I will admit I didn't see it coming in spite of warning signs (Gregory Peck) so both the ending and the final twist were surprising. But unfortunately I was just surprised how bad maestro has finished the novel.



Homicide Detective Raymond Cruz


Body count: 3

Sandy - Not the type, at first glance, some management consultant would keep in his stylish apartment. But look again and see fun in her eyes. It gave a man feeling that if he turned her little motor on she'd whirl him back to his youth and take him places he'd never been.

Carolyn Wilder - Prosecuting attorneys referred to her as the iron cunt. [Fatale]

Blackouts: /

Cool sounding, but not very accurate in my opinion as Detroit city doesn't play significant role. Probably "Primeval Justice" would be more appropriate considering American wild west sense of punishment. 

Super cool collage of the city, car and Raymond in front. Done by Tim Marrs who's also author of other Leonard's book published by Orion. Somehow ruined by Ian Rankin's cover blurb but luckily enough, my copy has one from New York Times (An entertainer who can write circles around almost anyone) so it is merely damaged and not entirely ruined.

Cool lines
Better to take an extra twenty seconds to be sure than to do twenty years in Jackson.[The Coolest!]

Jesus, the man had nerve. ... Men with nerve died like anyone else if shot in the right place.

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