Thursday, 12 November 2009

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

I had the privilege of reviewing one of Elmore Leonard’s books a while back for the FT, so while leafing around the library looking for inspiration, I decided to pick up something from his extensive back catalogue.

Rum Punch is probably better known through Quentin Tarantino’s film adaptation Jackie Brown, which is a shame, because it’s a tightly written crime thriller that is more than worth investigating in its own right.

Odell Robbie sells guns to criminals, but his operation is under the surveillance of the feds and when they arrest Jackie Burke who ships his money into Miami from the Caribbean he’s under pressure to get her out of the picture, fast.

Unfortunately for Odell, some of his accomplices don’t work to his level of professionalism. Louis Gara, for example; a three time jailbird who knows Odell from Detroit. Louis has lost his edge since he’s been inside:

Four years staring at the walls and drinking shine, the man was burnt out, useless.

You see, in this business, you have to stay sharp:

Louis was thinking he should not drink rum. Or he should find a glass and have another one... He had started this afternoon in the bar at the Ocean Mall, Casey’s, hiding out from Melanie, thinking of her as a female cannibal. Bourbon this afternoon, rum this evening, nothing to eat in between...

So when the final pick up takes place and Louis has to get back to his car, he needs to remember where he’s left it:

Sometimes when he was living in South Beach and drinking a lot he’d forget where he parked and have to roam up and down the streets. He’d had a few pops this afternoon before he’d picked her up.

That kind of sloppiness will get you more than a hangover. Let’s just say, Louis doesn’t get to go to prison a fourth time...

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