The Elmore Leonard Home Page

The Official
Elmore Leonard Website



The Bounty Hunters
The Law at Randado
Escape from Five Shadows
Last Stand at Saber River
The Big Bounce
The Moonshine War
Valdez is Coming
Forty Lashes Less One
Mr. Majestyk
Fifty-Two Pickup
Unknown Man No. 89
The Hunted
The Switch
City Primeval
Gold Coast
Split Images
Cat Chaser
Freaky Deaky
Get Shorty
Maximum Bob
Rum Punch
Riding the Rap
Out of Sight
Cuba Libre
Be Cool
Pagan Babies
Tishomingo Blues
Mr. Paradise
A Coyote’s in the House
The Hot Kid
Comfort to the Enemy
Up in Honey’s Room
Road Dogs


The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard
The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories
When the Women Come Out to Dance
Trail of the Apache
Apache Medicine
You Never See Apaches…
Red Hell Hits Canyon Diablo
The Colonel’s Lady
Law of the Hunted One
Cavalry Boots
Under the Friar’s Ledge
The Rustlers
Three Ten to Yuma
The Big Hunt
Long Night
The Boy Who Smiled
The Hard Way
The Last Shot
Blood Money
Trouble at Rindo’s Station
Saint with a Six-Gun
The Captives
No Man’s Guns
The Rancher’s Lady
Moment of Vengeance
Man with the Iron Arm
The Longest Day of his Life
The Nagual
The Kid
The Treasure of Mungo’s Landing
The Bull Ring at Blisston
Only Good Ones
The Tonto Woman
Hurrah for Captain Early
Karen Makes Out
The Odyssey
Hanging Out at the Buena Vista
Fire in the Hole
Chickasaw Charlie Hoke
When the Women Come Out to Dance
Showdown at Checotah
Louly and Pretty Boy
Chick Killer (2011)
Ice Man

Film and TV

Moment of Vengeance
3:10 to Yuma
The Tall T
The Big Bounce (I)
The Moonshine War
Valdez is Coming
Joe Kidd
Mr. Majestyk
High Noon, Part II
52 Pickup
The Rosary Murders
Glitz (TV)
Cat Chaser
Border Shootout
Split Images
Get Shorty
Last Stand at Saber River
Elmore Leonard’s Gold Coast (TV)
Jackie Brown
Maximum Bob
Out of Sight
Karen Sisco
The Big Bounce (II)
Be Cool (2005)
The Ambassador
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Killshot (2009)
Freaky Deaky
The Tonto Woman
Life of Crime

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt Review of LaBrava

The New York Times
October 7, 1983
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

JOE LABRAVA knows his way around, especially South Miami Beach and environs. He notices things. He’s tough and smart, though by no means ruthless, which is something that gets him in trouble now and then in Elmore Leonard’s latest novel (his 17th book, no less), ‘‘LaBrava.’’ Joe is a former Internal Revenue Service officer, Collection Division, and a former Secret Service agent who once did duty guarding Bess Truman at home in Independence, Mo. ‘‘Not even counting protective-detail in Mrs. Truman’s living room,’’ LaBrava reflects, ‘‘a life that sounded exciting was 80 percent boring.’‘
So in most respects, Joe LaBrava is fairly standard issue from the supply room of the tough-guy school of fiction. But Joe has retired from Government service now

and has taken up serious photography, if one can call serious the sort of pictures that prompt reviewers to write, ‘‘The aesthetic subtext of his work is the systematic exposure of artistic pretension.’’ But whatever the quality of his work, Joe LaBrava’s photography and his fascination with cinematic illusion are what keep Mr. Leonard’s new novel from being just another exchange of chicanery and nastiness.
Now this may seem a somewhat complicated thing to say about a novelist with all the moves that Mr. Leonard has, especially when he seems to have his punches more completely under control than in any of the half-dozen or so of his previous novels that I happen to have read. As usual, his dialogue is so authentic that it dances off the page, whether it’s Joe LaBrava talking, or his friend, old Maurie Zola, who owns beachfront real estate and remembers Miami when the right kind of people came down for the season. Now ‘‘they got video cameras mounted up on cement poles, close-circuit TV, so the cops can watch the muggings, the dope transactions, and not have to leave the stations.’‘

As usual, the characters flash on and off in multicolored neon: Paco Boza, who travels around in a wheelchair he stole from Eastern Airlines ‘‘because he didn’t like to walk and because he thought it was cool, a way for people to identify him’’ (’‘What does he do?’’ somebody asks LaBrava. ‘‘About $200 worth of cocaine a day.’‘); or Cundo Rey, a criminal-export from Cuba who, when he isn’t hot-wiring cars, spends his night- hours go-go dancing under a disco spotlight both for narcissistic gratification and the cash that the female patrons stuff into his leopard-skin underwear; or Jean Shaw, the slightly faded film-star friend of Maurie Zola’s who lives with the memories of the spider-woman roles that made her famous.
And the scam that forms the backbone of the novel’s plot is intriguingly mystifying. One sordid Miami Beach evening, LaBrava has a run-in with a sociopathic hulk named Richard Nobles, who takes his pleasure from beating up women who happen to catch his fancy. It soon develops that an extortion scheme is being aimed at Jean Shaw, Maurie Zola’s film-star friend, whom LaBrava has met and gotten sexually involved with, though he isn’t sure whether it’s her he desires or the cinematic image he fell in love with when he was 12 years old. A crudely typewritten note informs Jean Shaw that if she wants to avoid being killed, she must simply pay $600,000 to the extortionist, according to written instructions that will shortly follow.

Now here comes what ultimately makes ‘‘LaBrava’’ unusual as a thriller. It’s obvious to everyone that it has to be Nobles who is behind the extortion scheme. So all LaBrava and the police have to do is catch him making a wrong move, and the threat to Jean Shaw will be ended. But is Nobles really as stupid as he appears to be, or is someone manipulating him into being a decoy? And what about LaBrava’s dawning memory of the resemblance the scam bears to the plot of one of Jean Shaw’s less well-remembered movies? Can it be that LaBrava, hung up as he is on photography, is not only in love with an image but is caught as well in a web spun by a cinematic fantasist?
I’m afraid I’m making ‘‘LaBrava’’ sound a little on the French side, something like the fever-dream of a semiologist. But please don’t be put off. What’s unusual about ‘‘LaBrava’’ is that no matter how complicated its implications grow, it remains firmly rooted in its realistic milieu. And despite all the double-crossing mayhem it metes out, nobody gets hurt who doesn’t deserve to. The only innocent victim is the dream of Florida as a golden sunset for the old and infirm to fade peacefully into. But then ‘‘LaBrava’’ isn’t the first book in which Elmore Leonard has blasted that dream to smithereens. Nor for that matter will it be his last.


Recent Posts

Watch Timothy Olyphant Read Elmore Leonard In A Clip From ‘Justified: The Complete Series’

John Mulholland & Richard Zampella Filming Interviews for Elmore Leonard Documentary

Happy Birthday, Dutch!

5 Unforgettable Justified One-Liners

The Gregg Sutter Blog

Japanese FU-GO Balloon Bombs in Michigan

The Pontiac Story of Progress & Promise

Tom Morwatts on Growing Up in Detroit

Detroit Punks: Mitch Ryder

Amazon 2015 Pilots Now Online – Including Point of Honor

Even Bank Robbers Decide What Tie To Wear: The Essence Of Elmore Leonard

On Twitter

Top 10 dialogue in crime fiction. 8. Be Cool. The sudden lurch towards confrontation that Leonard’s so good at.
True Romance, an early Tarantino classic. "An Elmore Leonard novel that he didn't write."
Jonathan Tucker on ‘Kingdom’ Season 2, ‘Justified’, Taking Risks, and More… via @collidernews
Review: In ‘Hotels of North America,’ Rick Moody Examines the Middle-Aged Male in Free Fall
Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson, book of a lifetime…
Which work in your view is an Elmore Leonard classic?
Graham Yost brings Justified to Blu-ray and DVD - #GoogleAlerts
Watch Timothy Olyphant Read Elmore Leonard In A Clip From 'Justified: The Complete Series' via @UPROXX
John Mulholland & Richard Zampella Filming Interviews for Elmore Leonard Documentary…
Thinking about Dutch this weekend a little more than usual. Commemorating his 90th Birthday.
Today we're thankful for TV's supporting stars, like @jaimecamil @BellamyYoung & more
Debating which movie to watch this Thanksgiving? Rocky sequel #Creed is a knockout…
#BlackFriday Streaming Devices: The Best Deals for Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV and More
.@Adele's '25' has now sold over 3 million copies - and she's going on tour!
Need to escape from your family? Here's what to watch on TV this Thanksgiving…
12 Days of Binging? December Gets Busy With TV Series Premieres
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Tracking 20% Above Top Films of the Year on Digital Platforms
#VictorFrankenstein will be left out of the Thanksgiving feast at this weekend's box office…