Author: Elmore Leonard
Publication Date: 1983
Genre: Crime fiction
Page Length: Approximately 324 pages
La Brava, written by Elmore Leonard in 1983, is a crime fiction novel that delves into the lives of its characters and their intricate relationships. Set in South Florida, the story centers around three main characters: Joe La Brava, a former Secret Service agent and freelance photographer, Jean Shaw, a retired actress turned photography subject of Joe's, and Maurice "Junior" Bunk, Jean's boyfriend and an ex-talent agent.
The novel opens with Joe La Brava, who resides in Coconut Grove, Miami, working as a paparazzo. Joe, having previously worked for the Secret Service, develops an attraction towards Jean Shaw after photographing her on a beach. He starts taking her pictures whenever she visits her boyfriend, Junior, who has connections to the criminal world. As the narrative progresses, the readers gain insights into Joe's childhood obsessions with movies and his omnipresent camera, even being nicknamed 'La Brava' by his Secret Service buddies due to his love for Jean.
Unbeknownst to Joe, Junior is involved in a shady business with Dominic, an organized crime figure. Junior schemes to swindle Dominic and plans to involve Jean by pretending to kidnap her. Joe becomes entangled in their ploy as he saves Jean from a staged abduction, citing his photography skills and Secret Service experience as reasons for his intervention. Joe and Jean develop a closer bond as a result of this incident.
Joe and Jean's relationship evolves further as they become romantically involved. Joe's love for Jean grows stronger, and he uncovers her troubled past as a victim of an abusive relationship with a Hollywood star. Meanwhile, Junior's fraudulent plans slowly unravel, leading to dangerous consequences. Joe finds himself in the middle of a tumultuous situation involving Dominic, Junior, Jean, and his own conflicting emotions.
The story reaches its climax when Joe realizes that Junior, determined to regain power, plans to kill him and take over his photography business. Joe takes necessary precautions, aiming to protect himself and Jean. With the help of Ridley, a former comrade from his Secret Service days, Joe devises a plan to outsmart Junior and survive the dangerous confrontation that lies ahead.
Throughout La Brava, Leonard explores various themes that emphasize the characters' complexities and examine societal elements. The theme of identity is evident as Joe struggles with his past role as a Secret Service agent and his passion for photography. Leonard also touches upon the consequences of personal choices, highlighting the risks of involvement with criminal elements and the impact past relationships can have on the present.
Joe La Brava is a multifaceted character shaped by his troubled childhood and the lingering effects of his Secret Service past. His obsession with photography and love for Jean Shaw drive the narrative forward, showcasing his determination and ability to navigate dangerous situations.
Jean Shaw, a retired actress, carries the weight of an abusive relationship in her past. Although initially portrayed as a damsel in distress, she becomes a source of strength and support for Joe, highlighting her resilience.
Maurice "Junior" Bunk is a conniving character who manipulates those around him for personal gain. Junior's involvement with criminal elements leads to conflicts and propels the story's tension.
La Brava offers readers an opportunity to explore the intricacies of Leonard's crime fiction genre writing. The novel showcases his ability to create compelling characters within a richly developed plot. Leonard's examination of identity, personal choices, and the consequences they bring resonates with readers, allowing for introspection and critical analysis of the characters' motivations and actions.
Ultimately, La Brava serves as an enthralling crime fiction novel that not only captivates readers with its gripping plot but also encourages deeper contemplation of themes that reflect human nature and the complexity of relationships.