City Primeval

“City Primeval” is a crime drama from Elmore Leonard. It’s set in Detroit and it’s one of his early crime novels, written right after he made a transition from Westerns.


I’ve read many of Elmore Leonard’s books, so the style was familiar. Like most of the others, it was a fast read, but the reader needs to pay attention. There’s always a lot to keep track of in his stories, like who’s in the Mustang, and who’s in the Cadillac, and who stole the Chevy, and who has the shopping bag full of cash, and who told so-and-so this or that on what day, and now what is the other guy going to do when he finds out the girl lied and swallowed the evidence?


All this stuff isn’t a problem. In fact, it makes the story interesting. Another thing that’s interesting is the way people keep getting shot.  


People in EL’s books don’t usually get knifed, or blown up, or strangled, or poisoned, or ground up into dog food by a meat grinder. No, they get shot, with a Beretta or a Browning or a Walther P38–and no one describes a shooting better that EL. If you’re a writer planning to write a scene where someone gets shot, you should read one of his books. I won’t say you should steal his exact words, but I think they would be a worthy influence. And if you are going to steal, you could do a lot worse.  As someone once said to me, “If you’re going steal, steal from the best.”


“City Primeval” features a bad guy who’s really bad, and a ditzy girl who sort of loves him, and a smart female lawyer, and a cop who thinks he might be acting out his Wild West gunfighter fantasies–but he’s not sure. The characters are believable, the plot is decent, and the setting is gritty, raw, and real. My favorite part of the story was the relationship (I can’t really call it a romance) between homicide detective Raymond Cruz, and the lawyer, Carolyn Wilder. I would have liked one last chapter that revealed where their relationship went, but instead the book ends with a shootout at Ray’s personal OK Corral and that was just fine.