Monday, March 24, 2014
Glitz by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elmore Leonard is the master of suspense crime thrillers, and 1985's 'Glitz' is the novel the catapulted him into the big time. It's hard to see why, because the author is trundling along in third gear here.
'Glitz' is everything a pulp novel should be: well-plotted with well-defined characters: a story of flawed good people pitched against mundane, low-rent evil; a novel that entertains without ever approaching the status of art. Leonard's world has all the seediness of Raymond Chandler's, with our hero being drawn into a murky underworld and getting mixed up with some thoroughly disreputable characters, but with none of the humour or originality of imagery that raises Chandler to the status of genius.
Miami cop Vincent goes to Puerto Rico to recuperate after being shot, where he finds himself being tailed by bad man Teddy, whom he put away several years before and who harbours a grudge against him based on little more than the look in Vincent's eyes when he arrested him. A girl he meets leads him into the company of a casino owner and his wife, as well as a nightclub singer, which takes him to Atlantic City where he becomes a freelance murder detective after one of the above falls off a balcony. Meanwhile he hooks up with the nightclub singer and gets drawn into tidying up some of the nasty underworld activity associated with the casino. Teddy, perhaps disgruntled that his intended victim isn't giving him his full attention, commits another couple of pointless murders, partly to enhance his status as bad man and partly to give the book a high-enough body count to fulfil the requirements of the genre.
There aren't many plot holes, although some characters do some unlikely things that prove highly convenient to the plot. Some of the characters have annoyingly similar names: Teddy, Ricky and Jackie; DeLeon and LaDonna. The dialogue is excellent and perfectly pitched; the prose suitably economical.
'Glitz' is a fun read, but it's best read without the knowledge that some people think it's a masterpiece, which it clearly isn't.
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