Thursday Reviews: City Primeval by Elmore Leonard; The Baddest Ass by Anthony Neil Smith

City Primeval

Elmore Leonard

Clement Mansell kills a judge nobody likes. And by nobody, I mean the State Supreme Court of Michigan has him removed from the bench. In a fit of road rage, Mansell kills the judge and his girlfriend of the evening. Does he feel remorse? Why would he? He’s killed nine people at this point, and he’s proud of it. When questioned by homicide lieutenant Raymond Cruz, he even brags about it. What can the police do? They have to prove it, and he’s not signing his acknowledgment of his Miranda rights.

Then he challenges Cruz to a duel, just like Gregory Peck in High Noon. Cruz, who exists in a sort of Rust Belt version of the 87th Precinct, finds himself drawn to the Peck comparison. He wants to take down Mansell, even sets up Mansell to fall, and yet…

While Cruz is a modern cop fixated on the idea of a Western law man, Mansell is very much the irredeemable villain from a Western, even relishing the role. He’s a sociopath, all greed and no empathy. And like so many sociopaths, he is always shocked when something doesn’t go his way.

It’s not surprising this story almost parallels High Noon. Leonard began his career writing Westerns, including The Law at El Randado.

The Baddest Ass

Anthony Neil Smith

Billy Lafitte returns, doing time in a North Dakota federal pen. There’s a price on Lafitte’s head. A guard named Garner knows that a lot of cops, a lot of bikers, and a lot of prisoners want him dead. A prisoner named Ri’Chess (pronounced “Righteous”) wants to make it happen, seeing a big payday out of it. And a cop named Colleen is gunning for him, blaming him for the death of her fiancee. Colleen is willing to do anything, even giving herself to Ri’Chess during a conjugal visit to get the deed done. However, when a riot is staged to cover Lafitte’s death, it goes entirely wrong in three ways. First, Lafitte’s former mother-in-law brings his son Ham to see him. Second, Ri’Chess uses the riot for his own agenda, changing the time table to suit himself and his posse. And the third?

The forget that people tend to die around Billy Lafitte, particularly when he’s cornered.

Lafitte is definitely dirty. He even admits it. Yet it seems always he’s blamed for the havoc others cause. Near the end, Colleen realizes that Lafitte’s perennial nemesis, Rome (who does not appear, but is a presence nonetheless) is probably the cause of most of the chaos around Lafitte.

Smith has amped up the action. The prison setting lends itself to Lafitte’s now almost Schwarzenegger-like bad-assery. What sells it is that Lafitte has less and less to lose with each successive installment while his rivals continue to be too arrogant for their own good. There are some uncomfortable moments in this one. What Ri’Chess’s sidekick, Jean Robert, does to prisoners had me squirming in my seat. The levels of Hell Smith puts Lafitte through makes him the ultimate antihero.

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2 thoughts on “Thursday Reviews: City Primeval by Elmore Leonard; The Baddest Ass by Anthony Neil Smith

  1. It was Cooper. I remember that. But they kept referencing Peck. Maybe Leonard got High Noon and The Gunfighter mixed up, because I remember the plot points from The Gunfighter.

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