Mr. Majestyk by Elmore Leonard
Fast Paced Melon Picking, April 20, 2002
Mr. Majestyk, an interesting name for a vietnam vet turned Melon Picker. Actually, forget Mr. Majestyk was ever in Vietnam, it isn't that critical to the story. If you knew that Mr. Majestyk was a hunter, then his hard nose attitude would still make sense. All of that however, is an aside. Mr. Majestyk tells the story of a man that has escaped the world of Vietnam and attempts to raise a melon crop. He hires migrant workers to bring his crop in, including the love interest of the story, Nancy. And as others have put it, the job must get done. However, where there is a job, organized is usually not far behind in Leonard's novels. Even in the American Southwest. For Mr. Majestyk, it starts with a two bit hood named Bobby Kopas that tries to muscle in his own crew to pick the product in Majestyk's fields. With a punch and a shot gun, Majestyk drives them off and starts the whole ball rolling. After getting arrested for assaulting Kopas, Majestyk gets involved with a prison break with a Mafia Hitman named Frank Renda. The rest of the novel centers around Renda's planned revenge against Majestyk. I just found out this morning, after having completed the novel, that Mr. Majestyk was also a movie in 1974. I'm not certain which came first - the novel or the movie. However, Leonard wrote them both. The movie stars Charles Bronson, who I can see playing Mr. Majestyk, but I think someone like Clint Eastwood, or a larger actor would have matched my image from the novel better. Again, I digress. I guess I'm not surprised this book is also a movie. Unlike Leonard's more recent novels, Mr. Majestyk is much more action oriented than dialogue driven. That is kind of disappointing because Leonard's dialogue is the best. However, his action in this novel is some of the crispest he has written. I kept thinking to myself that I was surprised this hadn't already been turned into a movie as so many of Leonard's other novels had been - the surprise was on me I guess. This novel is also reminiscent of an old western. The hero (Majestyk) is pursued by the villain (Renda). The law fails, so the hero must take matters into his own hand, and ultimately, there will be a big showdown at high noon. Okay, so they don't meet in the middle of town with a pair of six shooters, but its close. I'd recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys Leonard and is looking for something a little different from him. A lot of the internal dialogue for the characters is missing in this one, but it is a quick read that tells a good story for some unlikely heros.
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