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City Primeval

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,827 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
Clement Mansell, knows how easy it is to get away with murder. The crazed killer is back on the Detroit streets -- thanks to some nifty courtroom moves by his crafty looker of a lawyer -- and he's feeling invincible enough to execute a crooked Motown judge. Homicide Detective Raymond Cruz thinks the Oklahoma Wildman crossed the line long before this latest outrage, and he' ...more
Paperback, 275 pages
Published March 17th 2005 by Phoenix (first published 1980)
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Dan Schwent
Career criminal Clement Mansell killed a crooked judge and the only witness to the crime, the judge's girlfriend. Now, detective Raymond Cruz is trying to pin the crime on Clement but Clement is the slipperiest of worms. Cruz and Clement are heading for a showdown that only one of them will walk away from...

As of this writing, I've read 15 Elmore Leonard novels. Many of them have the same sort of rhythm. The bad guys are slick, the good guys are slicker, and you wind up liking most of them to so
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Fight, bleep, or hold the flashlight"
- Elmore Leonard, "Impressions of a Murder"


This novel was tight as a futtock shroud, smooth as Mai Noi silk, sharp as the turns on Col de Braus, and hard as a boiled egg. I finish reading Elmore Leonard and I want to be him, just for a second. Now look: Chandler, Cain and Hammett are absolutely the Holy Trinity of crime; the Father, Son and Holy Ghosts of Noir. Leonard, however, is both the Word and death's echo. He is the ultimate end, the great inevitable
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, thriller
I first fell in love with Elmore Leonard's writing while reading his early Westerns. The settings were so vivid it was as if he had transported himself to the location and was describing every dust mote and atmospheric shift. The characters had such authentic voices; there was never any confusion about who was speaking, and he had an uncanny ear for patois.

Leonard displays these same features in this book. Here is Detroit, viewed from the 25th floor of a luxury condo: “The Detroit River looked
Paul Bryant
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good salary and a smart house, must be in want of a bonkfest from someone in the law enforcement business.

And she duly gets one around the halfway point in this novel, so we have a couple of paragraphs featuring words like arching and thrusting and gasps and so forth.

It’s another universal truth that authors believe to their very soul that the hero and the bad guy have to have a one on one showdown. Elmore Leonard alm
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Like the Detroit in which it takes place, City Primeval has a slick, modern surface and an undercurrent that's more, well, primeval: this is a novel about sophisticated legal defense maneuvers, patient police investigation, honor bound by blood, and Old West shootouts.

Professional dirtbag Clement Mansell, always one or two steps ahead of where people expect him to be (among other things, the Oklahoma accent throws them off), has a lethal blend of practicality, ingenuity, and impulsiveness that c
Marc Weidenbaum
A friend heard I'd never read a book by Elmore Leonard. He knew I'd been reading the Parker series by Donald Westlake, who wrote them under the name Richard Stark. I was up to number nine in the Parker series, when a package arrived in the mail -- two cheap paperbacks of Leonard novels, the sort of slim volumes that fit easily in the back pocket of a pair of jeans -- sent by my Leonard-liking friend. I dove immediately into City Primeval, which is subtitled High Noon in Detroit.

I'm only really
#2016-usa-geography-challenge: MICHIGAN

I hereby declare that Elmore Leonard was a great crime novelist. Oh, you already knew that? Yes, I am new to his novels, but better late than never, right?

In Elmore's first book set in Detroit, rotten and despicable Recorder's Court Judge Alvin B. Guy is gunned down in his big Lincoln and acting police lieutenant Raymond Cruz and the homicide squad wonder which of the long list of his enemies might have had him killed, especially after he declared he could
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at a library sale I attended about a month ago. I had never heard of this book by Leonard. It was published in 1980 and only has 221 pages. This is a gritty crime novel set in Detroit. This is classic Elmore Leoanard. Tough, hardboiled crime drama with lots of quirky off beat characters and dialogue.
I think this may have been one of Leonard's first forays into writing crime and his later novels are really a lot better, but this was a fascinating read.
A crafty criminal,Clem
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
CITY PRIMEVAL: High Noon in Detroit. (1980). Elmore Leonard. ****.
The Library of America has recently issued “Four Novels of the 1980s” by Elmore Leonard. It is a great excuse for me to re-read these after almost thirty years. I can recall the broad outlines of the plots, but the details have gone the way of lots of other things over the years. In this ‘Detroit’ novel, Leonard immediately drops you into the middle of his story. It will take you a few chapters to figure out what is going on, but
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I got interested in reading Elmore Leonard because he is one of 20 writers for the 6-season FX series “Justified” (2010-2015) Don and I love. The main character U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is based on the character originally appearing in Leonard’s novels “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap.” Later, Leonard wrote the short story “Fire in the Hole,” that’s the inspiration for the “Justified” series.

I found “City Primeval” (1980) just sitting, unread, on my bookshelves along with another four Leonard titl
Ashok Banker
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the best crime novels ever. Some of Leonard's best dialogue - and that's saying a lot, because Leonard has probably never written dialogue that isn't damn great, but here he outdoes himself. The sheer amount of authentic detail, right down to the repeated racist slurs, misogyny and bigotry is impressive - few authors today would dare to keep that much, I think. Yet it's all in service to the authenticity of the characters and you never once mistake the characters' bias for the author's, s ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As telegraphed by the title, City Primeval is an urbanized, big city western. Detroit police detective Raymond Cruz, a street-wise, plain spoken and analytical lawman becomes entangled in an intricate dance of violence with Clement Mansell, a “Billy the Kid” character who loves the game of cops and robbers and is so good at it that he’s managed to escape every murder rap that he has ever faced,--and several murders that he hasn’t had to face—a total of nine in all. Clement ultimately offers Cruz ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thumbs up. From that late 70’s-early 80’s era of Elmore’s I love so much. Raymond Cruz in a lot of ways seems like a proto-Bryan Hurd yet this story takes very different turns. Love the ending. Plus the bit with the Armenians. It gets where you think it’s going but not how you think it’s going to get there. Will probably move even higher up the list on re-read.
T.W. Dittmer
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Fun read, like all of Leonard's work.
Allan MacDonell
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit is from that dark period of Elmore's career when his novels contained more menace than humor. The realities on City Primeval are harsh, and the view is unblinking and succinctly delivered. No word is wasted, and every sentence is rich in narrative drive, essential information and characterization—this goes double for the dialogue.

Learning writers are drawn to Elmore Leonard because his prose has so much to teach. Lesson number one: Make sure the reader is grat
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-detective
There's something so perfectly satisfying about his books - you don't always know where he's going, but you know he'll get there the right way and not let you down.
This book is, in almost every way, more a western than a procedural. At the same time, it is exactly a procedural. The blend of the two makes so much sense I'm surprised it's the first one I've read of its kind. At the same time, who could do it more perfect justice than Leonard?
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, midwest, 1001
It speaks to Leonard's strength as a writer that this book, which is about as old as I am, still feels fresh and taut today. He doesn't stint on the development of good or bad guys, which is a welcome relief from the many writers who skip this crucial step.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
Excellent. I'll give it 4 & 1/2, but from the 5 side.
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
This is an old Elmore Leonard. 1980. Subtitled High Noon in Detroit, City Primeval treats the urban cops and robbers drama as a combination of modern law enforcement and frontier justice. I’m sure Leonard must have used the police detective-protagonist, Raymond Cruz, in other novels, though this is the first time I’ve seen him. He’s unique. Hard-boiled, taciturn, yet conflicted and vulnerable. He gets involved with an equally interesting and complex criminal defense attorney who, three years bef ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If everyone did their job half as well as Elmore Leonard does, this would be a better world. What Elmore Leonard does is write crime fiction mostly about little shit-heel, two-bit criminals who aren’t as smart as they often think they are, like in the case of Clement Mansell. Throw in a tireless police detective determined to bring Mansell down for murdering a judge, a beautiful defense attorney in over her head, and various other oddballs and sidekicks and you have a fun read as are all of his ...more
Dianne Emley
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I'm just starting to read Elmore Leonard and picked up this one as it was supposed to be among his best. Don't have enough background to compare with his other works, but it held up for me. Could have been written yesterday. Complex characters. Witty and dark dialogue. Loved the scene where the detective is questioning the murderer's girlfriend while an episode of The Newlywed Game is playing on TV. Brilliant, brilliant.
Janet Aileen
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Clean, crisp dialog, excellent character development, and engrossing plot served to us by an accomplished author. Elmore Leonard knows westerns, suspense, and the grittiness of Detroit. References to Carl's Chop House and Coney Island hot dogs took me back to I a place I lived in years ago.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elmore
As tight and savory as it was 37 years ago.
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
A cop and a lawyer who both generally believe in the system of law and order they serve get drawn into a case in which the system is failing. A judge and his female companion are murdered, and it soon becomes clear to just about everyone who the murderer is. But without clear evidence, he'll never be convicted. In fact he's killed 7 people before this case, and has gotten away with all those crimes and many other less lethal crimes without being convicted, and he's not worried this time either.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The dialogue is gritty and authentic and the novel is fast-paced. The characters have real life. Leonard has it all--great plot, dead-on characterizations and snappy dialogue.

Clement Mansell is a sociopathic wild man who thinks nothing about committing murder. Because he hired a crafty lawyer (Carolyn Wilder, partner in her law firm) who got him off the hook for several previous felonies, Clement is back on the streets of Detroit-- and he's feeling invincible enough to execute a crooked judge. H
Thomas Breen
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elmore Leonard writes with simplicity and electricity. Every sentence has a purpose. Every character takes shape through dialogue. The plot is the great MacGuffin: always the center of attention, but in fact nothing more than a rock around which the truly fascinating characters orbit. I read City Primeval because I was in Detroit for the holidays. Though the book is not interested in the city’s history, geography, or unique post-industrial troubles per se, it does transform the Motor City into a ...more
Spencer Abbott
Billed as "High Noon in Detroit", this police neo-procedural does rely heavily on classic Hollywood Western archetypes, sometimes a bit on the heavy-handed side (i.e. not very subtle with the allusions; although instead of actually following the plot of High Noon, the Gregory Peck film, The Gunfighter, is referenced more). A little convoluted with the cast of characters, one needs to pay attention when reading to keep some of the happenings straight. Overall, in the Leonard pantheon, it's rife w ...more
Chelsea Graham
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a bit of a disappointment compared to others I've read by Leonard. Even more than usual, the use of racial slurs and violence against women is bothersome. The female characters were slightly more active than those in most books of this genre, but not even up to the usual level of strength that Leonard allows them. On the plus side, as usual, the dialogue and language is crisp and the scenarios fascinating. However, even the plot feels a bit disjointed in comparison to the stark sim ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The gritty Detroit street cops-and-criminals scene as only Elmore Leonard can write it -- characters that are alive, plot that is ugly and frustrating (why do really bad guys get by with it?), and writing that I'd like to listen to read aloud. Easy Rawlins remains my favorite, but Leonard's other books are great reads, too.
Proofreading errors are not the author's fault, but to misspell Luckenbach made my Texan heart very unhappy.
Pep Bonet
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-la, noir, anglesa-us
Excellent. Inner city toughs and precinct cops. The tough and the soft ones are not precisely WYSIWIG. The language is chirurgically precise. Concision is important. You sleep one page and you could be lost. A very nice experience. And that's one of the reasons books are made for. Or am I wrong?
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USA Geography Cha...: City Primeval, by Elmore Leonard 1 1 Jun 10, 2016 07:01PM  
STYLE 1 4 Mar 21, 2016 11:52AM  
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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“He walked back into the living room, looking again at the illuminated photo of the man with the brown beard and long hair.
“Who’s that, a friend of yours?”
Mr. Sweety glanced over. He said, “This picture here?” and sounded surprised. “It’s Jesus. Who you think it was?”
“It’s a photograph,” Raymond said.
Mr. Sweety said, “Yeah, it’s a good likeness, ain’t it?”
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