I really have mixed emotions about Elmore Leonard's work. I like his Westerns a lot, and I enjoy his crime novels, too, but they frustrate me because the plots meander around so much. I guess I'm just too much of a plot guy. But several years ago I read and liked his novel THE HOT KID, about U.S. Marshal Carl Webster, which was set during the Thirties in
. So when I came across Leonard's collection COMFORT TO THE ENEMY, which also features Webster, I thought I'd give it a try, and I'm glad I did. Oklahoma
There are two short stories, "Showdown at Checotah" and "Louly and Pretty Boy", which fill in more of the background concerning Carl Webster, and then the title novella, "Comfort to the Enemy", which is more of a novel as far as I'm concerned. (I don't agree with people who claim that anything less than 70,000 words is a novella, but that doesn't really have anything to do with the subject at hand.) Whatever you call it, "Comfort to the Enemy" is a really fine story, one of my favorites by Leonard. Set during World War II, it finds Carl Webster investigating the murder of a prisoner in a POW camp full of Germans. The plot is actually pretty straightforward, although Leonard does manage to work in some gangsters and Nazi saboteurs. The whole thing generates a considerable amount of suspense by the end.
There's another Carl Webster novel, UP IN HONEY'S ROOM, that I haven't read yet. I have a hunch that I'll be reading it soon, as much as I enjoyed COMFORT TO THE ENEMY.