So, in requiem, The Moonshine War. One of Elmore’s earlier, but still with many hallmarks of his style. Perhaps the character of Dual typifies it best in the scene where he decides to buy a suit of a crisis, you might say. And indeed it isn’t. Unusual, though, that he decides to buy it off a man in a cafe. Then he decides he likes the dress of the woman the guy is with. By the time he’s through, both the man and woman are naked (“Might as well see the whole show.” Dual and his boss walk out with the clothes, the lady weeping and humiliated. The boss says, “Honey, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve seen women get by just fine with a whole lot less than you got.”A harbinger of the psychopathic Richie Nix in Killshot. But enough overview.
The Moonshine War is about Kentucky moonshiners post WWI. There’s a rumor that Son Martin’s father buried 150 barrels of whisky, and all kinds of people come to town looking for it. Son and his hired man, Aaron, have to try to hold them off, and they use threats against Son’s neighbor’s as leverage. In the course of the conflict, we learn a lot about just about every major player in town and a few minor ones. Because, as in all Leonard’s work, a book that seems to be about guns and whisky is, underneath, a book about the network of relationships that create and nourish–or destroy–lives. Here’s a typical description hooking the two motifs together. This is a bellboy POV at the town hotel:
They had looked pretty settled: the doctor sitting up in bed smoking a cigar, reading a newspaper and his young wife standing by the window with a green silk-looking robe on brushing her hair.
The thing Lowell wondered about now: if Frank long had been on that raid. . . had he taken that BAR . . . with him? Was it up there in 205 now?
Piles of delicious contradictions here. The sweet domestic scene of a man we know [though the bellboy doesn’t] is a killer and his prostitute “wife.” Then the jump to the BAR question. All speculations by an innocent kid who’s smart but way over his head getting involved in these schemes.
These things happen over and over. A page turner, certainly. But way, way more. Leonard, we miss you, but you’ll always be here,