Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Praise for Elmore Leonard

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 12:28 PM

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Elmore Leonard wrote so many great lines that would work on his tombstone if he has such a thing.

Leonard, who died Tuesday, made the hard job of writing dialogue look easy. Memphis and Mississippi figure in a few of his books, including "Tishomingo Blues" which features a high diver, casinos, Civil War reenactors, and naughty-child pie. His adopted home town was Detroit, which a writer for the Detroit News called "the gift that keeps on giving" to him.

“I like it,” Leonard said in 2012 of the Detroit area. “Great music ... lot of poverty. I wouldn’t move anywhere else. Now, it’s too late. I'd never be able to drive in San Francisco or Los Angeles.”

The friend who introduced me to his books 30 years ago said Leonard was a writer of Westerns like "Hombre" and "Three Ten to Yuma" who shifted to urban Westerns in a modern setting. The heroes were iron workers and such and the bad guys were sadistic but often amusing whackos. There was always a showdown at the end. As the saying goes, his books, all 45 of them, were hard to put down.

A few of those tombstone worthy lines:

(to aspiring writers) "Leave out the parts readers skip." (This applied to chapters, sentences, and even phrases such as WTF which he usually wrote as simply "The fuck?")

"We all die, just a question of when." (the 1967 movie version of "Hombre")

"Mister, you got a lot of hard bark on you." (Bad guy Richard Boone to Paul Newman in "Hombre")

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