The Hot Kid

Written by Elmore Leonard
Review by Steve Lewis

Elmore Leonard’s writing career began with westerns of the classic, traditional variety. While he was successful at it (with books turned into movies like Hombre and and 3:10 to Yuma) his sales didn’t begin to take off until he switched to contemporary crime novels (with books turned into movies like Mr. Majestyk and Get Shorty).

The Hot Kid is a semi-combination of the two genres, permuted into historical gangster fiction taking place in the Old West of the 1920s. The world of Pretty Boy Floyd, Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, and Bonnie and Clyde, all of whom are mentioned, but while Floyd comes close, none actually appear.

It’s a meandering sort of tale, but when it comes down to it, there are two primary players who are involved, and they are on opposite side of the law: Carlos (Carl) Webster, a U.S. Marshal, and Jack Belmont, the son of a wealthy businessman, but a gentleman intent on becoming Public Enemy Number One.

And nearly succeeding. The problem is that everyone’s dialogue, while suitably terse and in the vernacular, sounds exactly the same as everyone else’s. That includes the descriptive passages as well, as if one old fellow had wound himself up and spieled off a yarn of his own making. One might have also expected a little more jaggedness; except for a few isolated moments, this one’s too calm.