Monday, July 16, 2018

A Group of Elmore Leonard Characters Gets Freaky Deaky

There's no such thing as a bad Elmore Leonard novel, but inevitably, some of them have to be better than others, and to my mind, this book is not as successful as most of his other efforts. As virtually every reader of crime fiction knows, Leonard's principal strengths are the characters he invents and the great dialog that he gives them. In this case, though, none of the characters really appealed to me, and the dialog did not seem to flow as effortlessly, as intelligently, or as humorously as it does in most of his other books.

At the center of the novel are Robin Abbott and Skip Gibbs, two aging radicals from the late Sixties and early Seventies. Back in the day, when they weren't doing drugs and having sex with everyone in sight, Skip and Robin were blowing things up in the name of peace and justice. Ultimately, they wound up in prison and now that they're out, they're thinking of putting Skip's expertise with explosives to more practical use. (This book was published in 1988, and so the two are some fifteen years or so removed from their Glory Days.)

The other main character is a Detroit cop named Chris Mankowski. The book opens on Mankowski's last day as a member of the Bomb Squad before he transfers to the Sex Crimes unit. Also along for the ride are two brothers, Mark and Woody Ricks. The brothers were acquaintances of Robin and Skip's when they were in the movement. Mark now produces plays while his brother, who inherited the family's huge fortune, basically eats, drinks, and drugs himself into oblivion on a daily basis.

There's also Donnell, a former Black Panther, who now serves as Woody's driver and general factotum, and who's angling to cut himself a slice of Woody's fortune. Finally, there's an aspiring actress named Greta Wyatt, sometimes known as Ginger Jones. Greta attends a party at Woody's mansion where Woody takes her upstairs and rapes her. When she shows up at the Detroit P.D. to file a complaint, she meets Chris Mankowski who's on his first day on the job in Sex Crimes.

Once all the characters are on stage, the plot meanders all over the place as the plots in Elmore Leonard novels often do. The objectives and strategies of the various characters evolve over time and inevitably a lot of people will be double crossed and left angered and confused. There will also be a lot of explosions.

It's a fun read but, as I said, I found it less entertaining than most of Leonard's other crime novels, basically because I just didn't care about any of the characters or what might have happened to them along the way. After finishing this book yesterday, I sat down and watched "Jackie Brown," which was based on Leonard's novel Rum Punch. It's a great movie, based on a wonderful book, with lots of fantastic and memorable characters that I really did care a lot about. 
Freaky Deaky is a good book, but I don't think it's in the same league as Rum Punch and any number of other Elmore Leonard novels.

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