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Fifty-Two Pickup
Unknown Man No. 89
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Cat Chaser
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Get Shorty
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Up in Honey’s Room
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When the Women Come Out to Dance
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Fire in the Hole
Chickasaw Charlie Hoke
When the Women Come Out to Dance
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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
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Glitz (TV)
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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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Split Images: “Lovers and Killers”


Here’s the very first book review Elmore got in Newsweek, during the period of the early 1980s when the critics discovered him en masse.  Walter Clemons was among the first to get what Elmore was doing.

March 22, 1982
Walter Clemons

Split Images.  By Elmore Leonard.  282 pages.  Arbor House.  $12.50.

“The squad-car officer wondered at first if Mr. Daniels was a movie star. He had the features and that kind of sandy brown curly hair some movie stars had and never seemed to comb… People were always seeing movie stars around Palm Beach and Mr. Daniels mentioned George Hamilton twice.” Robbie Daniels, a boyish 41-year-old Detroit multimillionaire, stands outside his Florida mansion explaining how he came home late from the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre and shot a burglar in self-defense.

Robbie is a killer, of course. Elmore Leonard has so many cards up his sleeve that he plays this one faceup near the start, as Robbie nervily talks a big game of murder to stolid Detective Kouza, who cursorily wrote off the first killing as justifiable homicide and now resigns from the force to become Robbie’s chauffeur. Even when we see Robbie at work, lying to his victim as he performs an impeccable murder in an underground parking lot in Detroit, we still don’t know what he’s up to. Kouza, who asks, is given a curt explanation: “Practice.” We are kept off balance throughout this icy, understated thriller. The honest cop who dogs Robbie and Kouza tells odd lies to the woman he loves. Leonard even works a shocking switch on the pluckyheroine-goes-alone-to-dangerous-rendezvous ploy. The book’s single most brilliant scene, a face-off with two ex-con cowboys in a highway Bar-B-Que Pit, is acutely observant of place and contemporary role-playing.

Specificity is Leonard’s strength. The action shifts between sleazy-glamorous Palm Beach and recession-scarred Detroit during the winter and spring of 1981, when the Jean Harris trial and the assassination attempt on President Reagan are topics of conversation. Robbie’s motive for murder, when revealed, is both trivial and sickeningly precise. If you care to get Important about it, “Split Images” says something about machismo, casual violence and uncertain American identity. Since Leonard himself is so expertly unassuming, I would rather just say that this is the most original crime novel I’ve read since Alan Dennis Burke’s “Getting Away With Murder” last year.


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