Glitz is the latest Leonard novel I’ve read. He’d been writing books for a while before making Glitz, but this was the one that solidified his fame, earning him a place on bestseller lists and finally putting his name out there. It’s easy to see why. Glitz is Leonard at his most crowd-pleasing. The hero is a decent, average guy detective named Vincent Mora who takes a life in the line of duty and doesn’t feel happy about it. The villain, Teddy Magyk, is a sadistic, perverted Atlantic City rapist who wants revenge. Of all Leonard villains, he’s probably the easiest to hate. Glitz sees Mora and Magyk squaring off, first in San Juan and then amidst the casinos in Atlantic City. It’s the Eighties, so the Philadelphia Mafia and Colombian drug dealers quickly get involved and Mora ends up trying to buck them all as he tries to solve the mystery of a murdered Puerto Rican woman who he had a fling with while he as in San Juan.
But Glitz might also have been where Leonard’s vision really started to cohere. The crisp dialogue, naturalistic and still snappy, is there. You can see him start to bend the rules of grammar too. Plot-wise, Glitz is a little more straightforward that Leonard’s later works. Mora is a definite hero, cool and morally just and he gets a deserved happy ending. He even gets the girl. But the supporting characters, from the owners of the casino to their Ethiopian-born, ex-football player bodyguard, have plenty of depth as well and it’s great to watch Mora screw up or improve their lives. There’s quite a bit of action in Glitz, with Mora bouncing around and screwing with the mobsters and Magyk trying to screw with Mora. As you can expect, it ends up with some exciting gunplay. I’m not sure if Glitz is the best place to start with Elmore Leonard — I’d probably say Out of Sight, The Hot Kid, or a Raylan Givens story would be good — but it’s definitely a solid follow up.
There are more Leonard books that I’ve read and maybe I’ll talk about them later. There are a whole bunch that I haven’t read yet, but I’ll keep picking them up whenever I have a chance and I’ll keep reading them. There’s been a lot of talk of how Leonard made crime novels respectable and how his work can be enjoyed by the big L Literature crowd, which may be true — but I really think his appeal is more universal than that. He can be enjoyed by any audience. People who like crime stories, people craving interesting characters and observations about American society and history or people who hate reading in general will all find something to like in Leonard’s work. Whoever you are, I have a feeling that you’ll like his stories. He is one of the greatest writers who ever lived and he made a massive body of work that’s all readily available. I suggest you start reading him and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.