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PRONTO by Elmore Leonard


by Elmore Leonard

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-30846-9
Publisher: Delacorte

Leonard toys with the crime genre now like an old tomcat with a favorite ball--batting it around with languid, skilled strokes, putting on nifty new spins. Here, with a nod to his early days as a writer of westerns, he pits a Stetson-wearing US marshal against a bunch of mafiosi, tracing their tanglings from Miami Beach to Rapallo. The Italian scenes, in fact, are Leonard's first to be set overseas and not only relieve him from his usual Miami/Detroit venue but allow him to paint moments of wanton cruelty as he contrasts the savage native Italian mafia with its tame American cousin. Representative of the US branch is Dade County godfather Jimmy "Cap" Capotorto, who's grown slow and fat but survives through the hard muscle of "the Zip," an ambitious Italian import. Jimmy Cap sends the Zip to check on veteran bookie Harry Arno, whom he suspects of skimming. Harry has been cheating, actually, and when Jimmy Cap sends a second-string hit man to kill him, Harry pulls the trigger first and is corralled by the feds, who want to turn him against Jimmy Cap. Ironically, Harry's babysitter turns out to be Raylan Givens, the same laconic marshal whom Harry skipped out on years back--and now Harry pulls the same trick again, heading for Rapallo, with Givens and the Zip following close behind. Although the Zip struts tall in his homeland and exults in shaming the pumped-up but cowardly Italian-American apprentice Jimmy Cap's forced on him, Givens shows him up by finding Harry first--and thus unintentionally goads the Zip into a coldblooded murder, a murder that Givens won't forget and that finally has him, back in the States, after squirreling Harry to safety, giving the Zip 24 hours, then 30 minutes, then two minutes, then ten seconds, to leave the county--or else. Spaghetti western a la Leonard--full of gusto and not to be missed.