Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)


If you haven’t read an Elmore Leonard novel, now would be a good time to do that. I normally tell people to start with The Hot Kid, which merges the two genres he owned: westerns and crime. But it’s not “vintage” Elmore Leonard, in that it takes place over a few years instead of a much more compressed few days or weeks, and it isn’t strictly about a few people in a hard situation making mostly bad choices. Vintage Elmore Leonard is that: some characters and a problem that only gets bigger, and it’s all powered by some of the best dialogue you’ll ever read. Really. Here’s a line from a random page in Mr. Paradise, where a bad dude is setting up a job with some other bad dudes:

“What we’ll be doing isn’t exactly show business. You walk in where I tell you the guy will be, shoot him or throw him out a window and collect the balance, your twenty grand each. What I have to do for half that much is find you the job. I can’t advertise, can I? Like I’m one of those personal injury fuckheads. I can’t appeal to the little housewife whose husband beats her up every time he gets drunk. And she can’t run an ad in the Help Wanted. So I have to deal with people who shoot each other.”

more from Jonathan Segura at Paris Review here.