Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Summer Reading

One great thing about being (generally) unplugged from the Internet and away from work on long summer weekends in Anna Maria: Fewer distractions from the real work of life -- reading.

While at the Holmes Beach library with my kids, picking up books and DVDs, I quickly checked out the fiction shelves. I wound up with a couple of books featuring Western settings.

I made quick haste of Elmore Leonard's Mr. Majestyk, which struck me as something of a cross between his early Western material and the later gangster books. The title character, an ex-con and former Vietnam War soldier now eking out an honest living as a melon farmer in the hinterlands of Arizona. Through a chain of believable circumstances, he gets entangled with a Mafia hitman. Leonard is an absolute genius when it comes to creating snappy tough-guy dialogue and vivid scenery, and this novel is no exception.

Glancing around the Internet a few minutes ago, I discovered that the book is actually a novelization* of Leonard's original screenplay, for a movie released under the same name in 1974, and starring Charles Bronson. Never caught that film, but, for me, growing up, Bronson, rather than Clint Eastwood, was the guilty-pleasure badass actor du jour.

I recall, with fondness, The Mechanic, Death Wish, Breakout and Hard Times, all released between 1972-75, probably prime formative years for my moviegoing tastes - just when I was leaving adolescence and entering my teenage years and, no doubt, sneaking into R-rated movies.

Bronson, who died in 2003, used to be spotted from time to time on the beaches in and around Anna Maria, because he reportedly owned property in the area. See how all this ties together so neatly? Can't say that I planned it that way.

*Under normal circumstances, I'd be beating myself silly for reading a novelization, a form of writing which has always seemed to be a bastard genre, neither screenplay nor novel and nearly always cranked out by a hack possessed of neither style nor grace. But, hey, Leonard's name is on the cover, and I've already turned in the book, so I'm not going to go back and look more closely.

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