“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, August 26, 2013

RIP Elmore Leonard

I was away last week when the news of Elmore Leonard’s death broke. Desperately sad news it was, too. I’ve been fan of Elmore Leonard’s for about two decades now (he’s the only writer who gets an entire shelf to himself in my room), and it felt like I’d lost a favourite uncle, the guy you don’t see that often but who turns up maybe once a year with all these terrific stories about the people he’s met and the places he’s seen. It’s still a little hard to believe that he’s gone, to be honest. I was supposed to interview him last year, before the Cleveland Bouchercon, but personal circumstance got in the way and I didn’t get to make the trip. Some things just aren’t mean to happen, I suppose.
  Anyway, I’d just like to add my voice to all those acclaiming Elmore Leonard as one of the greats. The first book of his I read was FREAKY DEAKY, and I’ve read pretty much all of his crime novels since. I’m partial to GET SHORTY, OUT OF SIGHT, THE BIG BOUNCE, THE SWITCH and 52 PICK-UP, although for some reason PRONTO is the one I love the best.
  What I love about Elmore Leonard’s books is that they sound so natural, the way language and character and story all come together in such a seamless way. If it takes a hell of a lot of hard work to make something look effortless, Elmore Leonard was the hardest working writer in the game.
  My favourite example is the opening to STICK, which goes like this:
Stick said he wasn’t going if they had to pick up anything. Rainy said no, there wasn’t any product in the deal; all they had to do was drop a bag. Stick said, “And the guy’s giving you five grand?”
  That’s beautiful.