James Alexander Thom, best know for writing meticulously researched historical novels, particularly about Native Americans, has written a modern and marvelous coming-of-age novel, which I suspect is somewhat autobiographical, as his protagonist, Scott Montgomery, is of an age with the author. Beginning at six years old and his first âbig boyâ haircutâall by himselfâin the barbershop of KKK leader and father of the boyâBilly Bob Skaggsâwho will become Scott's arch-nemesis in so many ways, the tale of childhood trauma (physical and emotional) engages the reader on myriad levels and stunningly illuminates Scott's transformation from gung-ho Marine to avowed and conflicted pacifism. The only caveat which prevents this from being a 5-star read for me (and I suspect it may be own failing as much as the author's) is the way he ends the novel with a 2-page poem, which I did NOT appreciate since Thom writes such fantastic prose.
As usual, Elmore Leonard treats the reader to a fast-moving crime-in-Detroit novel. The main character, Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy's character), a process server with no real direction for his life, finds himself falling for an alcoholic widow/heiress beset by vicious con men. His relationship with Lee turns him into something of a knight errant on a mission to save the damsel in distress (and her money) by the bad guys who would also like to see Jack dead. Crackling Elmore Leonard dialogue makes for a delightful dip into the mean underbelly of the author's favorite Michigan city. Don't miss it if you like this type of read.