Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013, RIP

Elmore Leonard died this morning. From the LA Times:
Elmore Leonard, one of America's best known crime novelists, died Tuesday morning due to complications from a stroke....

His first book, "The Bounty Hunters," was published in 1953. His writing career began with pulp Westerns, only settling into the trademark Leonard realism, crime and wit with 1969's "The Big Bounce," which has been adapted for the movies twice. His most recent novel, "Raylan," was released in 2012.

Twenty-six of his books and short stories have been adapted for the screen, including "Hombre," "Get Shorty," "Jackie Brown," (based on 1992's "Rum Punch") and "Justified," TV shows based on 1993's "Pronto," 1995's "Riding the Rap" and the 2001 short story 'Fire in the Hole."....

In his widely circulated rules of writing, Leonard said, "Never open a book with weather; avoid prologues; keep your exclamation points under control; use regional dialect sparingly; avoid detailed descriptions of characters, places, and things; and try to leave out the part the readers tend to skip."

Most important, however, he said, "if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." [more]
His millions of fans, from bellhops to Saul Bellow, made all his books since "Glitz" (1985) best-sellers.

His more than 40 novels were populated by pathetic schemers, clever conmen and casual killers. Each was characterized by moral ambivalence about crime, black humor and wickedly acute depictions of human nature: the greedy dreams of Armand Degas in "Killshot," the wisecracking cool of Chili Palmer in "Get Shorty," Jack Belmont's lust for notoriety in "The Hot Kid." .... [more]
I have twenty-two Elmore Leonard's on my bookshelves and a few more on Kindle. I used to have more in paperback but as the paper became brown and brittle I discarded them, once giving a couple away to a guy who wanted to learn to write better dialogue. Leonard was particularly good at writing dialogue. I bought his books knowing they would be good and, not only that, but that they would bear re-reading, and I have never been disappointed. It's good to know that there are more out there, mostly early ones, that I haven't yet read.