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on 25 August 2005
I've been a fan of Elmore for a long time and, while I've read most of his books happily, a few of the more recent ones have been less satisfying. I didn't make it to the end of 'Be Cool' and while Tishomingo Blues was well-written and a lot of fun, it didn't feel inspired. It felt like a re-tread of familiar ground.
Well, THE HOT KID is inspired. It is original, while demonstrating everything about Elmore's writing which makes it the easiest - most fun - literary writing available, and is thoroughly engrossing.

Elmore shifts from current-day crime writing to the 'Bonnie and Clyde' era of his childhood to tell a tale of people wanting to be famous gangsters, people wanting to be the famous lawmen who catch them, and journalists wanting to make a name for themselves by writing exaggerated stories about both using the floweriest language available.

This book is fun, fun, fun and you shouldn't consider spending money on anything else until you own it.

Criminal
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on 18 August 2005
I am a great Leonard fan and have read all his books but found this one a touch predictable and ultimately disappointing.
Perhaps it was because not long ago I read "Public Enemies" by Bryan Burrough which deals faction-style with all the infamous criminals of the early thirties and The Hot Kid read like a condensed fictional verison of that book.
Nevertheless Leonard is without doubt one of the great story tellers of our time and this is still a good read. Go and buy it then read Burroughs' book.
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on 11 June 2005
Elmore Leonard tale of 1920-30's Oklahama crime and lawmen with his habitual sparce character description. The action starts in the first sentence and the tale fairly romps along. Although never his best, this is the pacy style that made Leonard one of my favourites. Some of the writing is derivative and trite but this book, for me, is a vast improvement on the recent Pagan Babies. The two main characters - on an inevitable collision course, one 'good', the other 'bad'; are both sons of recent oil-strike rich fathers and are motivated respectively by renown or notoriety. With the exception of the lawman's father and his marshall department superior, just about everyone else is driven by self-interest but, the book doesn't feel cynical.
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on 21 June 2005
Life in depression-era America was rough, painfully so. And Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the Dust Bowl, was a particularly bad place to be. Poverty, alcoholism, (despite Prohibition), violence, racism, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, were realities of the times. The phrase, "Brother, can you spare a dime," came to epitomize the humiliation and hopelessness of 13 million unemployed Americans. Severe droughts made farming impossible, and thousands of folks were driven off their land by starvation. Many blamed the banks and the wealthy financiers for the country's economic devastation. Crime rates rose drastically with the advent of the Great Depression and Prohibition, and robbing banks became an up-and-coming career path. In 1933, police jurisdictions ended at state lines, the FBI was in its infancy, fast cars and machine guns were easily available - if not for sale, than for stealing. On hand to take full advantage of this get rich fast manner of money making was a motley assortment of criminal masterminds, sociopaths, romantics, and adventurers. Some of the era's most famous Public Enemies - John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barkers - became iconic figures.
Elmore Leonard's latest novel, "The Hot Kid," is set in 1930's Oklahoma, against a backdrop of moonshine, speakeasies, mine strikes, oil wildcatters, gangsters, gun molls, prostitutes and plenty of bank robberies. The plot focuses on Carl Webster and Jack Belmont, two colorful characters who could make Bonnie and Clyde, in fact, the entire Barrow Gang, seem boring in comparison. The men's backgrounds are similar but their paths could not have diverged more.
Carl Webster, born Carlos, is the grandson of a pureblooded northern Cheyenne woman who married a white man. Their son, Virgil, is Carl's father. His mother, Graciaplena, was Cuban. She is deceased. Virgil, a hero of the Spanish American War, is a pecan farmer, who hit paydirt when oil was discovered on his land. When Carl was just 15, he witnessed an armed robbery and murder in an Okmulgee, Oklahoma drugstore. The kid took it personally because Emmet Long, one of the hold-up men, called him and his father breeds and greasers. He also ate Carl's peach ice cream cone - took it right out of his hand. Later that same year, Carl shot and killed a cattle thief. He warned the man first, "If I have to pull my weapon, I'll shoot to kill." This warning, unintentionally, turns into his tag line. Thus, Carl begins to move toward his inevitable career in law enforcement - what else? He eventually becomes a Federal Marshall, who acquires fame early-on for killing a famous bank robber - the very same gangster who once stole his ice cream cone. Webster is also known for possessing a strong code of honor. A clothes horse too, with an enormous ego, he's one hot kid!
Another Oklahoma boy, and a peer of Carl's, is Jack Belmont. To be blunt, Jack is a bad seed - a real psycho. His dad, Oris, is an oilman who, unlike Carl's father, found oil the old-fashioned way - he worked for it. His discovery of black gold was no accident, but the end result of a long arduous process. And he is a very wealthy man. His only son, however, is a major disappointment, and no amount of hard work can change that. At age ten, Jack tried to drown his sister, but only succeeded in crippling her for life. He also tried his hand at rape, assault, a racially motivated shooting, and other shenanigans, before getting down to real business. He attempted to blackmail his dad, when he could have easily gotten the money by asking. When Oris cracks-down and thinks to make a man of Jack by having him do some "boot camp" labor with some of the "hard cases" working the oil rigs, Jack blows up an oil tank in an explosion that can be seen miles away. Tired of the oil business, he embarks on a bank robbing spree across Oklahoma and Kansas. He does try his hand at kidnapping and forgery first. He thinks he is the hottest kid around! Maybe he means hotheaded!
Webster is soon on Jack's trail. And Jack, longing to reach the pinnacle of his career by becoming Public Enemy Number One, hunts Marshall Webster, whom he has sworn to kill. That would bring in plenty of publicity!
Tony Antonelli, another important personage, is a journalist who writes for True Crime, and documents the exploits of Carl Webster and of Jack Belmont. He doesn't particularly want to be "hot," he just wants to become an award-winning writer. And lovely Louly Brown is definitely hot. She had a "thing" for Pretty Boy Floyd, loves Carl but is drawn to the outlaw life.
Elmore Leonard's quirky characters are some of the most fascinating around. He paints a vivid portrait of Depression-era life in the Dust Bowl, including some of America's most notorious crime figures, turned folk heroes. As always his dialogue is great, as is his dark humor. However, for some reason I was not as drawn into the plot as I had hoped to be. Leonard's narrative is well written, and I am fascinated by the period. I just kept waiting for the main story to begin, and when I discovered I was in the middle of it, I felt kind of let down. I seem to be the only reader, of the hundreds of thousands who bought this book, who feels this way - so chalk it up to my quirkiness. I definitely recommend the novel and am not at all sorry I read it.
This is Elmore Leonard's 40th novel, proving that some talented, creative people are not slowed down by the process of aging.
JANA
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 February 2016
The Hot Kid won't win any literary prizes but it is a thoroughly entertaining read with some superb shooting scenes, delightfully nasty gangsters and some of the sharpest "gun molls" I have encountered. It moves with a fantastic pace. There is some description but never a wasted word. Every short gritty sentence grabs you. By the end I felt as though I really knew what it felt like to be living in the world of bankrobbers in the twenties and early thirties.

Don't read it if you are remotely sensitive about woman being treated as objects. The crude way the characters, and the narrator for that matter, talk about their bodies, is shocking or funny depending on your point of view.

If possible, get the audible version - the reading is fantastic.
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on 5 October 2010
This is the first Elmore Leonard book I have read. I like his style. His dialogue has a slight colloquial flavour to it, which helps to place it in a time & place. Good characters and a reasonable amount of pace. Although I enjoyed it - and will try some other of his work - it wasn't a rapid page turner like some of the best thrillers.
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on 18 May 2016
Four stars but only because I'm a fan. This is basically a Raylon Givens story (if you've seen Justified,you'll know what expect) set in the 1930s. If you haven't read Leonard before its good, if you have, well it's one for completists.
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on 12 January 2009
Leonard continually writes hugely entertaining books. This is a great story, with all the typically cool characters and cracking dialogue. It's another great Leonard novel and I'd highly recommend it.
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on 3 September 2013
Excellent Elmore Leonard at his usual laconic best - very much a precursor to Raylan Givens. A depression American western
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on 14 November 2014
V.Good
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