Friday 26 September 2008

A Wee Review - Quiver by Peter Leonard

So, Peter Leonard, son of the great Elmore Leonard, has written a crime fiction novel titled Quiver.

I thought I’d get the father-son association out of the way as soon as possible, because I think it’s only fair to review this book as a Peter Leonard novel, not a work from the son of Elmore Leonard. You could argue that he’ll benefit from his association with his father, and if that wasn’t his intention, then why not use a pseudonym? Well, that didn’t work for Joe Hill, did it? Everybody knows he’s Stephen King’s son. And judging by the reaction to his work, everybody knows he’s a very good writer. Is Peter Leonard?

Read on.

Kate McCall is dealing with her husband’s recent death at the hands of her son, fifteen-year-old Luke, in a freak hunting accident. Suffocated by guilt, Luke has gone off the rails; failing at school, drinking and living recklessly. Enter Jack, an old flame from Kate’s past, fresh out of jail and already considering his next criminal endeavour. And as Jack bulls back into Kate’s life, he brings with him some lowlife associates from his past. And they’ve noticed that Kate isn’t short of a few greenbacks. In fact, she’s a two million dollar jackpot, primed to pay out.

Quiver brings together a colourful cast of ne’er-do-wells and pits them against our heroine, Kate. Jack’s old associates are a twisted triumvirate made up of Teddy the hick thug, Celeste the sociopath daughter of a white supremacist, and DeJuan the black hitman. Each of the key players brings a unique POV to the novel, and I think out of all of them, I enjoyed the sections written in DeJuan’s perspective the most. It’s not that he’s a likeable character. Far from it. But Leonard has given his inner monologues a distinct flavour. He doesn’t think. He busts rhymes internally. Each thought could find a place in a gangsta rap song. And it reads very well. Of course, as a whiter than white Irish man, I can only base this opinion on limited experience. Namely movies like Boys in the Hood and 50 Cent songs. Could be DeJuan is the hip hop equivalent of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. But it works for me.

Kate is a strong heroine. An early flashback proves her worth as someone not to be messed with. So we know she’s tough. But what about Luke, her troubled son? Well, that right there is her weakness, and the source of most of the book’s suspense. Leonard uses this dynamic to impressive effect. This is Kate’s story, but to a certain extent, Luke’s personal journey (or in Hollywood terms – his redemptive arc), steals the show to a certain degree.

Which leads me on to my next point. This book exudes a very cinematic quality. Short, sharp scenes. Plenty of action. Multiple POV changes and cliff-hangers. I’ll not be surprised to see this pop up on IMDB in the very near future. And you know what? I’d buy a ticket.

Quiver is an exciting thriller with a plot as sharp as an arrow point and as quick as its Darton Apache-propelled trajectory. Read it now or wait for the inevitable movie release. Either way, this novel is a step in the right direction for Peter Leonard. And I imagine there’ll be better yet to come.


Michael Stone said...

Could be DeJuan is the hip hop equivalent of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. But it works for me.


Nice review, Gerard.

Gerard Brennan said...

Cheers, Mike.


colman said...

Probably going to steer clear of this because of the nepotism angle.
which is probably unfair.

A few years ago Tabitha King had some books out, whilst I never read them, would the fact that hubby was probably the world's best selling author at the time have influenced a publisher to give them a go?

Ditto James Lee Burke - I've read pretty much everything of his and enjoyed it, though with the qualification that Robicheaux just isn't believable anymore after 20 trillion shoot outs, 15000 alcoholic relapses and countless near-misses - perhaps it's easy writing the same book over and over again......painting by numbers becomes writing to a formula and it's what the publisher wants......anyway he writes great books but the series has gone on too long....anyway after that digression his daughter Alafair also writes but as long as I've got a hole in my bum I won't be buying anything of hers,

I've seen nepotism in the workplace and whilst I'm probably unfairly judging or even prejudging the seed of the loins of some literary greats I'd sooner give the unconnected a chance to impress me......unless someone wants to send me a free copy then I'll swallow my precious indignation and give you an educated opinion,

Michael Stone said...

Colman, I kinda see where you're coming from, but I'm not sure it is nepotism in this instance. I think it's more a publisher knowing that Mrs King's and Mr Leonard Jr's names will catch the eye of the reading public. Authors as successful as those you mention above become brand names and are thus marketable in their own right.

But sure, there is always going to be a question of how much Daddy helped to swing a publishing deal -- that's inevitable -- but I don't think I'd let it stop me from trying their offspring's book though.

Michael Stone said...

Oh, and Colman, I agree 100% re. Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels. I've only read a handful but the similarities were so many it was ridiculous. If it hadn't been for the titles I might have thought I was rereading the same book. Superb prose, but for God's sake, man, write a new story!

I also read one of Burle's Texas Ranger books, but didn't feel compelled to read more.

Gerard Brennan said...

Colman - Well, I haven't much more to add really. Mike got in there first. (Cheers, Mike!)

Like Mike, I'll give any author a chance. I have to admit, I was quite leery about this particular book for all the reason you've stated, namely nepotism. But I'm glad I gave it a go now.

Still, you're a man of principles, so stick to your guns, unless, as you say, you can get a copy for free.


Rob J said...

A great book. Being a big fan of Elmore, I was interested to see if his son could match any of his classic books. He does. Like Pa, Peter has a superb insight into all of his characters.

Quentin T should given the rights to make this novel into a film.

I will keep a watch for futher books from him.