Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: THE HOT KID by Elmore Leonard (Carl Webster #1)

The Hot Kid (Carl Webster, #1)Chronicling the kills of Carl Webster, a gun toting prodigy working as a US Marshal, THE HOT KID pits wanna-be gangsters and bank robbers (and some reluctant gun molls) against a man who is as much legend as the revered outlaws of the time.

Carl Webster was inducted into the life of crime at an early age when famous bank robber, Emmett Long robbed a store where Carl bought his ice cream as a kid. Long left a lasting impression on the young Carl, not only by killing an officer of the law but also making matters personal between him and Carl having tried to intimidate the youth.

This event, and another in which a thief attempted to steal some property of his fathers land were the catalyst for Carl's evolution from skilled young gunman to legend with a badge.

Dubbed 'The Hot Kid', Carl's primary target is Jack Belmont, son to a rich and powerful oil magnate who wants to emulate the great bank robbers. Unfortunately he lands dead centre within the trigger sights of the Marshals, resulting in a unique game of cat and mouse - only this time, both seek that final confrontation.

Without spoiling too much I'll keep my views ambiguous as there is so much going on inside the 300-odd pages. Elmore Leonard gives this fabled hero a dose of realism referencing actual crimes and the criminals that commit them in passing throughout the story. The shootouts are first class and reminded me of the old western farm barn shootouts so popular in that genre. There's a lot of killing but it's not without cause. Carl comes across as almost an unwilling killer yet it's hard to ascertain if he enjoys his work or not - this adds a little darkness to the polished facade.

THE HOT KID is one of Elmore Leonard best works, it reads like a TV series with some chapters almost self contained yet linked by the broader plot. Readers will get a lot of satisfaction reading the first book by Elmore Leonard to feature Carl Webster.

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