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The Hot Kid Mass Market Paperback – August 29, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Before Elmore Leonard abandoned westerns to blaze across the pantheon of bestsellerdom with his hip, stylish thrillers, punctuated with dead-pan humor and dialogue worthy of a David Mamet play, he might have written The Hot Kid; it has some of the same crisp pacing and well-defined, if not especially complex, characters that marked his earlier novels. A show-down between Tulsa oil wildcatter and millionaire Oris Belmont and his 18-year-old son, who's attempting to shake him down, says all there is to say about both men:
"I don’t know what's wrong with you. You're a nice-looking boy, wear a clean shirt every day, keep your hair combed ... where'd you get your ugly disposition? Your mama blames me for not being around, so then I give you things .. you get in trouble, I get you out. Well, now you've moved on to extortion in your life of crime ... I pay you what you want or you're telling everybody I have a girlfriend?"

Jack Belmont's blackmail scheme doesn't work, but after destroying his father's property, forging checks in his name, kidnapping his mistress, and joining a gang of notorious bank robbers after his release from prison, he encounters another man trying to get out from under his father's large shadow and create his own, bigger one. Deputy U.S. Marshal Carl Webster, who at age 15 shot a man trying to steal his cows and six years later dispenses equal justice to Emmet Long, the leader of Belmont's gang, now has Jack Belmont in his sights. Webster's exploits have earned him even more celebrity than Jack, who dreams of rivaling Pretty Boy Floyd as public enemy number one.

We’re in the early 30's here, just as a dust cloud is rolling across the Oklahoma plains--the days of Bonnie and Clyde, when gangsters captured the public attention, and Leonard makes good use of place and time. His minor characters are much more interesting than his protagonists, especially the women, and the writing shows occasional flashes of his trademarked ironic humor. But it's not as cool--or as hot--as even his most dedicated readers are used to, and there's barely a trace of the bizarre plot twists and unlikely coincidences that define his most recent caper novels in this one. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Leonard's 40th novel, set in the world of 1930s gangsters and gun molls, features characterizations so deft and true you can smell the hair oil on the dudes and the perfume on the dames. Young Carlos Webster tangles with his first gangster at 15, when bank robber Emmet Long robs an Okmulgee, Okla., store, kills an Indian policeman and takes away Carlos's ice cream cone. Seven years later, Carlos, now Carl, a newly minted deputy U.S. marshal, gets his revenge by gunning Long down, an act that wins him the respect of his employers and the adulation of the American public, who follow his every quick-draw exploit in the papers and True Detective magazine. Cinematically, Leonard introduces his characters—Carl's colorful pecan-farmer father, Virgil; Jack Belmont, ne'er-do-well son of a rich oilman; True Detective writer Tony Antonelli; Louly Brown, whose cousin marries Pretty Boy Floyd—in small, self-contained scenes. As the novel moves forward, these characters and others begin to interact, forming liaisons both romantic and criminal. At the stirring conclusion, scores are settled and the good and the bad get sorted out in satisfactorily violent fashion. The writing is pitch-perfect throughout: "It was his son's quiet tone that made Virgil realize, My Lord, but this boy's got a hard bark on him." The setting and tone fall somewhere between Leonard's early westerns and his more recent crime novels, but it's all pure Leonard, and that means it's pure terrific. Agent, Andrew Wiley. (May) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 387 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch; Reprint edition (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060724234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060724238
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Lux on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Leonard's 42nd novel lacks his trademark convoluted double- and triple-cross among the bad guys, the law, and the good guys acting just to the side of the law. Instead we get a down-home good guy with some trademark lines and a bunch of rascals throughout his career in the law. Is it worth it? You bet! Leonard proves his mastery as a storyteller by taking on a totally new setting for this latest crime novel--1930s Oklahoma. The man who perfectly captures Miami gangsters, Hollywood film wanna-bes, high-class urban strippers, and cops everywhere proves that he can do it all again, in new territory, that of the Dust Bowl, bank robbers, speakeasies, US Marshals, Prohibition, and farm girls trying to make their name in Midwest cities.

As I said, there is no masterful all-encompassing crime plot to carry the entire novel, but the reading is engaging nonetheless. The Hot Kid is a series of vignettes in the life of oil-well boy Carl, who witnesses a crime as a child and grows up to become the most respected (and feared) marshal in the state. Carl has run-ins with bank robbers, with crime journalists, with gun molls, with speakeasy owners, and with downright ruthless cold-blooded killers. His nemesis is Jack Belmont, a wanna-be criminal rebelling against his millionaire dad, and the two cross paths repeatedly throughout the novel. Leonard develops a rich cast of characters (as usual, some are on the right side, others on the wrong side, and still others just to the edge of the law) whose lives intersect again and again during US Marshal Carl Webster's career.

The dialogue, as one would expect in a Leonard novel, is outstanding. The characters leap off the page and the reader is transported to another time and place. This is a true winner of a crime novel, and a shining entry in Elmore Leonard's long-standing career at the top of the genre.
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Format: Hardcover
There are writers. There are novelists. There are storytellers. And there is Elmore Leonard who seeming transcends classification.

Leonard is at his lyrical, mythmaking best here as he tells the story of a little Oklahoma boy who is robbed of his ice cream cone by a two-bit bank robber, an event that shapes his future.

Carl Webster grows to be a man and becomes a Deputy United States Marshall during the heyday of bank robbers. Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonny and Clyde capture the nation's attention, while J. Edgar Hoover, Melvin Purvis and - of course - Carl Webster seek their own headlines.

In a millieu of dirt-poor farmers become millionaires through the Oklahoma oil boom, whores with good hearts, a rich man's son turned bad and the muse of Tony Antonelli, crime reporter, all the stories mix and blend thanks to Leonard's gifted pen.

Each of the characters is rich and full-blooded. The scent of Oklahonma's backroads and Kansas City's opulent brothels and their denizens is strong as the trails of bandits, lawmen, rich men, demented mothers, prostitutes and demented sons cross and re-cross.

Elmore Leonard has crafted many a fine tale: but "The Hot Kid" is undoubtedly one of his best and a thoroughly satisfying read.

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I generally like Elmore Leonard, this is the twelfth book of his I've read, ranging from his Detroit crime capers, to his L.A.-set Chili Palmer stuff, to some of his Westerns. Other than the terrible "Be Cool", this is probably my least favorite of his books so far. Set in the years between the end of World War I and 1934, the story follows Carlos "Carl" Webster from boyhood to manhood as the son of a wealthy pecan farmer rises to became a hotshot U.S. Marshall. The story takes place in the dusty Midwest, mainly around Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as Carl faces off with various wanna-be desperados seeking to make a name for themselves.

Carl is a somewhat vain, cocky lawman, with a keen sense of what kind of quote will get him in the papers. His main foe is the son of a wealthy oil man, a no account young man who has everything he needs, but whose selfish nature and appetite for stirring things up leads him into Carl's path. Mixed into this are kinds of period details, from prohibition to Will Rogers shows to Klansmen vigilantes to "True Detective" writers to striking miners to mentions of various real-life bank robbers Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde Barrow.

Despite all this background detail, the story itself failed to engage me. There are none of the clever twists and turns that characterize Leonard's best work. There's a good guy, a bad guy, and an inextricable outcome whose resolution is surprisingly undramatic. In fact, about halfway through the book I realized that the "real story" wasn't going to kick in -- I was in it! And unlike many Leonard books, the supporting cast of characters isn't particularly memorable. Even Leonard's trademark strong dialogue is mostly missing, subsumed by his attempt to stick to period speech.
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Format: Hardcover
I have come to the conclusion that there is no reliable measure by which the magnitude of Elmore Leonard's ability can be gauged. He was at one point referred to, with some accuracy, as America's most popular unknown author. He is no longer unknown; he has, in fact, created his own subgenre of sorts, inhabited by tough guys, clever guys, and tender and tougher women. One can never predict what is going to happen in an Elmore Leonard novel, or even what he will pick as subject matter from one work to the next. At a point when an author of his stature, of his talent, could phone in a reliably entertaining work, Leonard continues to test, and stretch, the boundaries that he previously marked off.

So now Leonard favors us with THE HOT KID, a work set in the Oklahoma of the 1930s. It is Leonard's most ambitious, and arguably best, work to date, rich in dialogue, characters, and subtle contrasts. Leonard focuses primarily on Carl Webster and Jack Belmont, two men of not-dissimilar backgrounds with divergent career paths. Webster's father is a career Oklahoma pecan farmer who became wealthy quite by accident when oil was discovered on his land. Belmont's father deliberately sought oil and found it, becoming a millionaire by arduous and dangerous trial and error.

Both men seem to have their respective courses set in their teen years --- Webster's through a chance encounter with an outlaw, Belmont's through a family tragedy that he precipitates out of misfeasance at best and malfeasance at worst. They each fashion a rebellion of sorts against their fathers. Webster rejects his father's gentle entreaties to continue the family pecan farm business by becoming a U.S. Marshal. He quickly grows famous for his killing of a notorious bank robber, as well as his code of honor.
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