Elmore Leonard (1925 - 2013)
I hate that in its obituary for Elmore Leonard, the New York Times felt the need to sniff down its long, blue-blooded corporate nose, and call him “a modern master of American genre writing” [italics mine]. I’m sure no offense was intended, and I suspect Leonard wouldn’t have objected, but still, the qualification is wholly unnecessary. He was a master. Period. And the fact is, he didn’t aspire to the literary pantheon. He preferred to be read, and his influence was not limited to other "genre" writers. There are a lot of people referred to as "writer's writers," Elmore Leonard was a writer's writer's writer. He was that good. He was not only the consummate craftsman, he was a bit of a visionary. Leonard was one of those people who come along when an art form has gone a little soft, become a little too reliant on convention and its practitioners a little too pleased with themselves, who strips the form down and re-imagines it, and in so doing revitalizes the art. Elmore Leonard did that twice, for the western and then crime fiction.
If you regularly write anything more complex than a grocery list and you haven’t memorized Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing, do it now...
No, really. I'm serious. NOW.
There is no way I can scratch the surface of his long and prolific career here. So I'll list a few of the big titles for the uninitiated, and hopefully jog the memory of the already converted. But if I could go back and read Leonard for the first time, I would dig around and find the hidden gems: the ones you'll be so stoked about that you'll buttonhole strangers in bookstores and insist that they buy them, or the ones you'll hide under your mattress because they are just too good, too rare and just too you to share.
In the meantime, those of you who loved and admired his work, raise a glass to the man who brought such strange--often chilling--pleasure to so many.
Three-Ten to Yuma (The book is a collection of stories, though the two--count 'em--two movies made of title story are not terrible).
Get Shorty (Again, read the book, but the movie is not half bad)
Glitz: A Novel
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit
Justified [DVD-TV Series}