Split Images

I’ve been reading an old Elmore Leonard crime.novel as a palate freshener between Expanse novels. Split Images was published in 1981, and, wonder of wonders, is now available electronically in the Singapore library system, despite being as far from those things as one might imagine.
It’s almost a prototype for Out Of Sight, my favourite Soderbergh movie and Elmore Leonard novel. In both cases, there’s a beautiful woman and a robust hero, a psychopath and a slightly unwilling henchman. But Split Images also seems to have been cross fertilised by George V Higgins; there some particularly ripe language when Walter Souza, henchman of the piece, is describing things to his boss.

Split Images concerns a bored industrialist who’s just sold his company, and is more interested in killing people. There’s a cop, Bryan Hurd, paying the strong-and-quite-quiet type, and a lady journalist who falls in love with him, although they never consummate their relationship in the book. If this was going to be a film, we could easily cast Jennifer Lopez again as Angela, but Clooney, with ten years shaved off him, would be better as Robbie Daniels, the villain of the piece, than as Hurd.

Things happen; the book starts with a shooting, and four more people die before the end. There’s an almost Fitzgerald Ian discussion of how the rich are different to us (they discuss real estate and refer to their father as "dad" rather than "my dad") and then Walter Souza has his filthy outbursts which prevent the thing getting too highbrow.

Like most of Leonard’s crime novels, it’s not rooted in a particular time too much. Excise the smoking in bars (and the smoking on a plane) and it could be set right now, or twenty years before. The ending is downbeat, but I somehow sensed from about two-thirds of the way through that there wouldn’t be a happy ending. It’s like wearing a suit so sharp it cuts you while you’re admiring how good you look.


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