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Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

Rum Punch (original 1992; edition 2002)

by Elmore Leonard

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1,086127,665 (3.66)39
Title:Rum Punch
Authors:Elmore Leonard
Info:HarperTorch (2002), Mass Market Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard (1992)

Recently added byjkrzok, mc100, TysonAdams, Leswbaker, Verge0007, CatEllington, private library
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    Pulp Fiction: A Quentin Tarantino Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Tarantino is to film as Leonard is to prose.

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Outstanding!!! One of my favorite novels, ever. Elmore Leonard's masterpiece, Rum Punch, was the inspiration for the Tarantino cinematic classic, "Jackie Brown", but the original name of the Leonard heroine is Jackie Burke.

The film stayed somewhat true to the volatile plot of the novel, but you know what they say: 'The book is always better.' As much as I love the film adaptation of this book, not to mention both its director and cast, I was blown clean away by this story, set in Miami, one of my favorite cities.

Jackie Burke, a stewardess in her 40s, is recruited by a gunrunner named Ordell to smuggle his illegal ill-gotten money into the States from Jamaica, mon. But of course, Jackie gets busted by US law enforcement, and once that happened, the bloodshed got underway...

Rum Punch is a knockout punch of never-a-dull-moment, fast-paced, heart-pounding action and suspense. One of the all-time greats. And five-star worthy. ( )
  CatEllington | May 5, 2017 |

I recall someone saying how Elmore Leonard isn't old school `cause he built the school. Very true. My favorite Elmore Leonard novels are Tishomingo Blues and Pagan Babies; Rum Punch is my very favorite, thus this review. Also, in addition to reviewing the book, let me plug the audiobook read by Joe Mantegna. The voice of Joe Mantegna is pitch-perfect, his rhythm and inflections capturing each of the characters, male and female, as well as the mood and charged atmosphere of the entire story.

Perhaps readers know that Elmore Leonard listed his own `Rules of Writing'. You can easily find them with a quick Google search. Here is how Leonard follows his own rules in Rum Punch:

Rule: Never open the book with the weather or a prologue.
The novel's opening line: "Sunday morning, Ordell took Louis to watch the white-power demonstration in downtown Palm Beach." ----- A gripping scene right from the start; not a prologue or mention of the weather in sight.

Rule: Never use a verb other than `said' or an adverb modifying `said' to carry dialogue.
A snatch of dialogue from the first page: ""Young skinhead Nazis," Ordell said. "Look, even little Nazigirls marching down Worth Avenue. You believe it? Coming now you have the Klan, not too many here today. Some in green, must be the coneheads' new spring shade. Behind them it looks like some Bikers for Racism, better known as the Dixie Knights. We gonna move on ahead, fight through the crowd here," Ordell said, bringing Louis along.
"There's a man I want to show you. See who he reminds you of. He told me they're gonna march up South County and have their show on the steps of the fountain by city hall. You ever see so many police? Yeah, I expect you have. But not all these different uniforms at one time. They mean business too, got their helmets on, their riot ba-tons. Stay on the sidewalk or they liable to hit you over the head. They keeping the street safe for the Nazis."" ----- Right on, Elmore. No need for ornamentation here since Ordell's words speak for themselves.

Rule: Avoid using exclamation points (in other words, Leonard is telling us to let the action itself communicate power and excitement).
Vintage Elmore: "He saw the two bikers standing in kind of a crouch with their rifles, shoulders hunched, looking this way, nearer the house now than the gun range. He saw them out there in the open, cautious. Saw them both look toward the driveway at the same time and start to turn in that direction, raising their rifles. Louis heard the sound of automatic weapons, not as loud as he heard them in Ordell's gun movie or in any movie he had ever seen, and watched the two bikers drop where they were standing seem to collapse, fall without firing a shot, the sound of the automatic weapons continuing until finally it stopped. Pretty soon the jackboys appeared, the kids with their Chinese guns, curved banana clips, looking at the men on the ground and then toward the house."

Rule: Use regional dialect and jargon sparingly.
Elmore Leonard wrote to be read. When he writes dialogue, it doesn't matter if the speaker is from the inner city or the rural hinterlands, you can read it. Case in point: ""All right, go ahead," Simone said. "You find any other guns, or you find something else and you take it? The man's gonna come after you. Understand? Man that has more guns'n you ever saw in your life." ----- True to the character, in this case an older Black woman, but, again, you can read it. Every piece of dialogue in Rum Punch is equally clear.

Rule: Avoid detailed descriptions of characters and don't go into great detail describing places or things.
Here is how the author describes bail bondsman Max Cherry, one of the main characters, through the eyes of Ordell, another main character: "The man himself appeared neat, cleanshaved, had his blue shirt open, no tie, good size shoulders on him. That dark, tough-looking type of guy like Lewis, dark hair, only Max Cherry was losing his on top. Up in his fifties somewhere. He could be Eyetalian, except Ordell had never met a bail bondsman wasn't Jewish." ----- That's it-short, crisp, a few telling details.

Rule: Cut out parts the reader tend to skip.
The hardback edition of Rum Punch is 297 pages. I've read the novel three times, never skipping a page, ever. Why would I skip pages? What happens and what is said on every page drives the story.

Rule (the last and most important rule): If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
Rum Punch does not sound like writing. That's a fact. A Victorian romance, it isn't. What Rum Punch sounds like - regarding dialogue - is a verbatim transcript from living, breathing people. And the world the characters inhabit is described in enough detail that we get a clear picture.

If you haven't read any of Elmore Leonard's 45 published novels, Rum Punch is a great place to start. ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
When flight attendant Jackie Burke is stopped by the ATF carrying $50,000 and a small baggie of cocaine, it sets into motion a chain of events. This is the book that the Quentin Tarantino movie Jackie Brown was based on, although set in Florida rather than California. Elmore Leonard trademarks include a cast of quirky characters and a lot of snappy dialogue. A fun, quick read. ( )
  sturlington | Nov 28, 2016 |
You can understand why Quentin Tarantino wanted a crack at directing an Elmore Leonard story, as he has a very similar style. I had seen Jackie Brown, the movie based on this novel, multiple times, and had in fact just watched it again before starting the novel at long last. The only problem this led to for me was that I kept picturing Pam Grier whenever Jackie Burke was mentioned.

If you've seen the movie, you know the basics, but there are so many additional elements left out of Tarantino's movie that it still makes this an enjoyable read. We get to see more of Melanie's character, as well as a whole sub-plot involving the theft of a gun stash from a Nazi Ordell calls "The Big Guy." Louis gets more definition as well, and we see him start to rise into the character Ordell wants him to be, even though he's still not great at it.

I haven't read The Switch, which is apparently the first outing for Ordell and Louis, a job referenced throughout the book and the way they met Melanie, but it's not a necessary read to understand their motivations here. It's just a nice bit of history for the three.

I've been meaning to read more Elmore Leonard. Finally read my first last year, going to try to get to a few more this year. Definitely a fun crime storyteller. ( )
  regularguy5mb | Feb 22, 2016 |
You know those American films where the characters speak so quickly you can't quite work out what they've said, but can roughly follow things by the flow of the plot? A lot of this is like that but once you're used to the dialect the story just flows, peopled with lots of naughty characters and no wasted words. In fact he actually skips words which are grammatically required but which the sense can do without. There's a refreshing lack of political correctness. I actually googled Leonard to see what colour he is (white). Jackie’s a likable heroine and there’s a feel-good air to the novel. No great shakes but I’d happily read other stuff by him. ( )
  Lukerik | Nov 17, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060082194, Mass Market Paperback)

Readers who come to Rum Punch after having seen Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film adaptation, Jackie Brown, are in for a few surprises. Mainly, Jackie Burke is a 44-year-old white woman (but just as hard-boiled as Pam Grier), bail bondsman Max Cherry has a much more prominent role in the proceedings, and the novel takes place in Miami--not Los Angeles. The core of the story, however, remains the same: when the cops try to use Jackie to get at Ordell Robbie, the gunrunner she's been bringing cash into the country for, she hatches a plan--with help from Max--to keep the money for herself. It all comes together in the traditional Elmore Leonard style, where the conversations are as crisply written and suspenseful as the action scenes. --Ron Hogan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:50 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Ordell "Whitebread" Robbie makes a fine living selling illegal high-powered weaponry to the wrong people. Jackie Burke couriers Ordell's profits from Freeport to Miami. But the feds are on to Jackie -- and now the aging, but still hot, flight attendant will have to do prison time or play ball, which makes her a prime "loose end" that Ordell needs to tie up permanently. Jackie, however, has other options. And with the help of Max Cherry -- an honest but disgruntled bail bondsman looking to get out -- she could even end up with a serious nest egg in the process.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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