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Mr. Majestyk

Mr. Majestyk - Elmore Leonard When a wannabe tough guy tries to muscle in on Vincent Majestyk's melon farm, Majestyk lets him know in no uncertain terms that he's not welcome. Majestyk, a US Army war veteran, now has only one goal in mind: get his crop in and save his farm. He's not about to let some two-bit hustler dictate terms. This lands Majestyk in jail, though, where he faces assault charges and gets caught up in an escape attempt by a fellow jailbird, the notorious hit man Frank Renda. Offered a chance to run off with Renda, Majestyk just wants to get clear of the whole mess and return to his melon farm. However, Majestyk finds this isn't so easy after you've double-crossed a professional killer and now he's got more than the melons on his farm to worry about. But teamed up with Nancy Chavez, a tough and sassy lady hired on as a picker, Majestyk is about to teach Renda that this is one melon farmer you don't mess with.

Like many others, I was saddened by the recent passing of Elmore Leonard and initially felt the urge to read a bunch of his stuff that I haven't read yet (and there are a bunch), but I guess there is plenty of time for that. Since there won't be any more from EL I'm going to take my time to savor them.

So instead I decided to revisit a personal favorite, Mr. Majestyk. Even though it's sort of a minor EL title, this little novel packs a lot of punch in a small package. Part crime novel and part modern western, Mr. Majestyk doesn't have a lot of the snappy dialogue that EL is famous for, but the dialogue as well as the prose are distinctly Elmore Leonard and carry that same tough, casual feel. There is a lot of action in Mr. Majestyk. I read somewhere that EL wrote this as an original screenplay and wrote the novelization later. That may be because Mr. Majestyk certainly has a cinematic feel to it (strangely enough I don't believe I have ever, at the time of this review, seen the film starring Charles Bronson. I'm going to have to correct that deficiency posthaste). 

Despite this fact, Majestyk, while seemingly a pretty archetypal hero character, actually has a lot of depth and this is stuff you sort of have to put together yourself since neither EL nor Majestyk seem to have a lot of patience for navel-gazing.  Majestyk really is a great character. He's a working-class bad ass without even trying or realizing it. The other characters are drawn perfectly as well and I am always left in some amazement that EL can make characters come alive without letting a lot of pesky words get in the way.

I love Mr. Majestyk and I thank Elmore Leonard for writing it. Again, I'm sad about his passing, but I have a lot yet to read of his stuff. As long as there are Elmore Leonard stories to read and re-read, heck, that's about the best kind of immortality to have, if you ask me.

R.I.P., Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013