Best 1983 Adventures (7)
November 11, 2018
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1983 adventure novels. Happy 35th anniversary!
Elmore Leonard’s crime adventure LaBrava.
When Miami street photographer Joe LaBrava meets the first woman he ever loved — former film noir star Jean Shaw — he is happy to help protect her from a couple of local hoodlums who appear to be shaking her down. LaBrava is, after all, a former Secret Service agent, who knows how to handle himself… even though his toughest assignment was guarding Bess Truman’s home in Independence, Mo. The enigmatic Shaw, we discover, once wrote a rejected screenplay in which the femme fatale, for once, gets the guy and the loot; a version of this story plays out in the novel. LaBrava is an engaging hero — more concerned with photographing the inner essence of South Beach’s retirees, gangsters, and crackpots than with bringing criminals to justice. Via his eighty-something friend Maury, a hotelier who’s seen it all, we catch a glimpse of how Miami has changed since midcentury. The hoodlums are interesting characters, too: A redneck from Florida’s swamp country, on the lam from his own kinfolk; and a bisexual Cuban marielito deported to the States by Fidel Castro when the Cambinado del Este prison was emptied out. Not my all-time favorite Leonard novel, but certainly in his top ten.
Fun facts: LaBrava, which was published the same year that Brian De Palma’s Scarface revealed the seamy underbelly of Miami’s South Beach (and a year before Miami Vice aired), won the Edgar Award — selected by the Mystery Writers of America — for Best Novel.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.