I went to the local second-hand bookshop looking for an Elmore Leonard novel, any Elmore Leonard novel. I was looking for the kind of dialogue that Quentin Tarantino looks up to. I was looking for a character like Raylan Givens in Justified.
Cuba Libre has a lot going for it: set in Cuba when America invades. Corrupt local soldiers. Honest local cops. A cowboy with a fast draw that gets him into trouble. A beautiful and smart blonde a long way from home. A soldier unjustifiably detained. A greedy plantation owner and the old fixer that works for him. A dumb henchman. A cold-heart-ed killer.
Unfortunately the book is only just the sum of its parts. I’ve followed Ryan Holiday’s advice and given it a few weeks to settle in and I like the book much less than I did when I finished it. The flaws have become more obvious: Some characters and plot points are superfluous. The dialog is exposition heavy rather than snappy. I didn’t buy the romantic storyline at all.
Look, the story is fine. It would be a decent holiday read. But this probably isn’t the Elmore Leonard I was looking for.