Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comfort to the Enemy, Elmore Leonard

Posted by lea at 12:23 PM
Comfort to the Enemy is not your usual Elmore Leonard novel. Sure there are gangsters and good guys, but this slim volume takes you back to the 40s, the days of shoot-outs between gangs and sheriffs in the American mid-west.

The hero is US Marshall Carl Webster, whom we first meet as a hot shot youngster with a cool hand and precision barrel-sight. The first few chapters are disjointed stories from differing viewpoints, threaded by the appearance of Carl in his official capacity. The second half of the book becomes a novella set during the holocaust of World War II, when Carl is a little older and wiser, and by this point is married to Louly - a character from an earlier chapter. We don't really get to hear how this relationship developed, but one senses it may be the plot of another book. It probably already is, but I just haven't read it yet.

As a book, the structure of Comfort to the Enemy is somewhat confusing, especially for those who aren't aware that Carl has featured in Elmore Leonard's books before, and that this is actually patched up bits of fiction extracted from his preious works. However, it still manages to be a good read because of Leonard's ability to get the reader right into the world of his characters. His dialogue is always cracking and his narrative never heavy-handed. It's as though the action takes you straight through to the end - you never see the puppet strings.

Verdict: Great for a cold winter's day when you just want to rug up and lose yourself in another world, but not quite as fun as his other works.


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