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Some people in life are thrill seekers who have to go to extremes to get the adrenaline rush they require. They may jump out of a plane, go white water rafting, or tease a Rottweiler. I too am a thrill seeker, but the level of input required is a lot less. Give me a good book or a new science fiction show and I am likely to give you a girlish squeal and dance like a mad man. Not for me jumping from an 80ft diving board into a small tank of water. They say that it's better to live one day as a lion than a whole life as a worm. I reply; have you ever seen a worm skinned rug? (1)
Dennis Lenehan is a professional diver who carts his performance around the circuses, fairs and amusement parks of the US. He jumps from upwards of 80ft into a small tank of water that he drives around the country with him. Dennis lives for the thrill of the jump and the nerve needed to do it day after day means that he is ice cool. All his coolness is needed when he is hired by a Casino to show his act. When practising he witnesses the shooting of a man and all of a sudden his life is in danger. Can a con man named Robert help him out? With the Dixie Mafia on you tail you need all the help you can get.
'Tishomingo Blues' is the second Elmore Leonard book that I have read in quick succession and it is clear that over the years that Leonard has developed a particular style that has not changed much. He is a cool writer who specialises in creating cool characters and stories that require you to read between the lines. This often leads to a slow pace and a book in which nothing much happens. To begin with I thought that Leonard had finally gotten over this with 'Tishomingo' as the initial third is great. From the moment we are introduced to Dennis to his witness of a shooting the book has the potential to be action packed and pacy. Introduce the suave Robert and you have a couple of characters who you love to hang out with.
Hanging out is not enough when trying to write crime fiction. Once Leonard has established the characters he takes his foot off the gas and the book slows down so much as to be a struggle. I was hoping to only have to read about one or two characters, but once again Leonard begins to introduce too many varied characters and you lose track of who is who. The book also moves away from the casino and into the American Civil War reacting scene. This just does not work as well and is quite alien for a European reader.
My criticisms of the writing style do not end there are Leonard's laid back style borders on the arrogant. There are references to events that are very subtle and if you do not pick them up almost immediately you will be left wondering what is going on for a few pages. Leonard relies solely on his laconic prose as a selling point hoping that each book will sell on the merits of his style. I for one am fed up of reading his storyless novels and will make this my last.
'Tishomingo Blues' was for a few pages the book that I thought Leonard had in him. He is a best seller and has been writing for years so he must have some talent. For a while I was reading a hip and pacy novel about a cool character getting mixed up with things over his head. However, Leonard soon returned to type and began to cram too many characters into the book and make the story drag out for far too long. One for completists of the author only.
Author: Elmore Leonard
Price: amazon uk - £7.19
(1) Quote from Red Dwarf : )