four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-HotKidIn 1921, 15-year-old Carlos Webster has his ice cream cone stolen by Emmett Long. He also witnesses the killing of a police officer. Flash forward a few years: Carlos is Carl, a self-conscious Deputy U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma, and Emmett Long is knocking over banks —that is, until he hears Webster utter his signature line: ‘’If I have to pull my weapon I’ll shoot to kill." Soon Carl is on the trail of Jack Belmont, a psychotic oilman’s son gone wrong. His hunt in this depression-era scene of folk heroes, floozies, and celebrity gangsters is chronicled by Tony Antonelli, who clamors after the same celebrity that he creates with his purple prose.
Morrow. 312 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0060724226

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Fifty-four years and 39 novels later, you might think the prolific Mr. Leonard would be content to phone one in. You certainly wouldn’t expect him to have produced his best novel at the age of 79, but he seems to have done it." Stephen King

Washington Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"… there is also depth here, character development that to a person makes this book’s characters variously deeply admirable or, in the case of those without morals or conscience, deeply unlikable but real." Carol Herman

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Far from being an exercise in nostalgia, this book reinvigorates what Mr. Leonard might have experienced at his most impressionable: the mythmaking process that turned commonplace crooks into figures of folklore. And he is able to bring a remarkable form of double vision to the events described here without sacrificing the deadpan verve that is his trademark." Janet Maslin

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"… this is a novel that, not very far beneath the surface, is all about style, literary and otherwise, and in the end it gently proposes something like an ethics of storytelling." Charles McGrath

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"In The Hot Kid, Oklahoma is his version of Shakespeare’s enchanted isle in The Tempest, a brave new world where maids and monsters, outlaws and oilmen, strange creatures all, act out their dubious destinies." Patrick Anderson

Baltimore Sun 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In typical Leonard fashion, the so-called heroes aren’t so much different from the criminals. … Moral ambiguity and hard- edged cynicism were never rendered with a slicker, almost cheerful sheen." Sarah Weinman

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Hot Kid is a self-assured work by an author at the top of his game." Denise Hamilton

New York Daily News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While The Hot Kid is not Leonard’s funniest book, he makes up for it with an almost tender appreciation of the dawn of the celebrity culture when gangsters and lawman fought for their media moments." Sherryl Connelly

Critical Summary

All the hallmarks of Leonard’s long success are here: mordant wit, lightning-crack dialogue, and an unerring storytelling instinct. It is the same formula that has turned books like Get Shorty into bestsellers and Hollywood favorites. But even in his 80th year, the master is stretching his legs. He finds his path by stepping back in time to his early childhood in Oklahoma and the beginnings of his career as a writer of westerns. All that experience comes to bear on The Hot Kid, which, in a career of great fictions, emerges as one of the critics’ favorites. Grumbles do emerge: his characters are flat; there’s too much violence; he mixes together historical and fictional characters. But reviewers throw their nitpicks by the wayside and concede that Leonard, whatever his failings, is quite a hot kid himself.