Captain Spaulding on Skull Island

Elmore Leonard R.I.P.

August 20th, 2013

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“Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

Author Elmore “Dutch” Leonard died this morning. He was 87 years old. He was one of the best.

Here are some random thoughts on this great writer:

– My first exposure to Leonard’s writing was seeing the movie GET SHORTY when it came out in 1995. I loved it! It’s a perfect film with actors, story and screenplay working hand-in-hand to create something special. (We’ve lost a lot of people involved with that classic this summer).

– My first exposure to his actual words was when I read his short story “3:10 to Yuma” in the amazing anthology HARD-BOILED in 1996. I wasn’t into westerns at the time, but the story stuck with me. I’ve gone back and re-read the tale a couple times since then.

– In 1997 I read SWAG, my first Elmore Leonard novel. The book was loaned to me by my friend Vito Lapiccola (How’s that for an Elmore Leonard character name!) SWAG opened the flood gates – I couldn’t read Leonard’s books fast enough!
— In the late-90’s/early-oughts I would read Elmore Leonard novels back-to-back, finishing one and then immediately picking up the next. When I’d done this with other authors, their writer tricks would start showing up (always using the same imagery for the sunset, the same descriptions of events and characters, etc.). This wasn’t the case with Dutch. Even reading them back to back his books all seemed fresh and unique.

-Whenever people talk about great Elmore Leonard adaptations, they talk about GET SHORTY, OUT OF SIGHT and JACKIE BROWN. These are all excellent, but I think the pilot episode of JUSTIFIED needs to be on that list, too. This adaptation of his short story “Fire in the Hole” is one of the best page-to screen-translations ever produced.
–JUSTIFIED is also spectacular as a series. If you watch closely, you’ll see pages lifted from other Dutch novels and inserted into episodes. As some wise person said on another blog, each week is like a new Elmore Leonard short story.

– I was lucky enough to meet him in 2004 when he was touring for his most recent release, MR. PARADISE. While it’s not one of my favorite books of his, I have a signed copy. So that makes it one of my favorite books of his.

I put Elmore Leonard in the same category as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake – One of the elite. I’ve read a lot of his books and short stories over the last 16 years. Luckily he was prolific, so I have quite a few left to enjoy.
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