When novelist Elmore Leonard writes, every imaginable detail is covered, answering all of those ‘Where the hell is this going’ remarks you probably made up till that point. His latest novel, Tishomingo Blues [William Morrow Publishing] follows suit, as the plot is somewhat revealed within the first 30 pages, leaving all of the who-dun-its and who’s-gonna-be-doin-its to unfold gently along the next 200 pages.
The focus of the story is on Dennis Lenahan, an acrobatic, aging high-diver that is looking to set up gigs at the brand new Tishomingo Casino & Lounge on the Mississippi. Lenahan describes looking down on the pool from atop his 80-foot high perch as “looking down on a half-dollar laid on the floor,” to anyone who inquired about his daring dives. After some negotiation, Dennis lands a deal with casino owner, Billy Darwin, and before his first show is even underway, he witnesses the murder of a co-worker from the top of his diving perch.
From this point on, Dennis knows that he’s in it deep. The killers saw him up there, and have threatened to repeat the act on him if he tells anyone about it. Enter Robert Taylor.
Robert, a slick-talking, black gangster from Detroit also saw the murder from his hotel window, and his mission is now to use this to his advantage, and get Dennis to join in on a drug operation he plans to set up in the area. Robert offers Dennis protection from the killers, to which Dennis basically must do whatever Robert says. The two become buddies during the story, leading to an interesting twist at the end.
But Robert also has some plans for the killers as well. During a Civil War re-enactment (a theme prevalent throughout the entire book), Robert and some crew members plan on taking care of the killers, who are also in charge of the current drug operation in town. Little did Robert know that the killers had the same intention of pulling the trigger on him.
The final chapters culminate in a whirlwind of scheming, plotting, and surprising plot-twists, with writing so casual and unfiltered it seems as if any man could fit any role, adding a sense of ‘this-could-be-you’ to a story that lacks a bit of zip due to it’s restricting Civil War theme.
How will it all go down? That’s what keeps the pages turning, and what makes Elmore Leonard the best thriller writer around. Expect this one to follow suit with Leonard’s ‘Get Shorty’, and a big-screen version should be around fairly soon (My money’s on Ice Cube for Robert Taylor’s part).