“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

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.

10 comments:

seana graham said...

I'm sorry you didn't a chance to interview him. He was obviously an influence.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I’ve been exchanging e-mails with a guy who wrote an op-ed piece for my newspaper about Elmore Leonard. Our conversation turned to younger, current crime writers in the Leonardian vein, and I recommended you along with Charlie Stella, Dana King, John McFetridge, and Mike Nicol.

While I have not read as much Leonard as you and other true Elmorites, Pronto may be my favorite. I also watched and liked some of Jackie Brown this week (I’ll watch the rest later), so I may read Rum Punch after Bouchercon.
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Declan Burke said...

Seana - I really regret missing that chance. To be honest, all I really wanted to do was shake his hand.

Declan Burke said...

Peter - You're very generous, sir, but if the last week has taught me anything (as I redraft my latest opus) it's that I'm a long, long way short of ever hitting any kind of Leonardian vein.

seana graham said...

I can't remember if you've dedicated any of your books to him, but if not, that would be another form of tribute.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I found this at my place:

"Declan Burke's novel The Big O opens with an epigraph from Elmore Leonard."

Declan, you've jabbed a needle into the literary arm often enough to hit a vein or two.

Emma Lavoie said...

Fifty Shades Movie
Awesome book fifty shades lovely book... Movie soon.....Fifty shades of grey...

Keith Dixon said...

Declan, nice tribute. I've been reading him since the late seventies, when a friend started bringing his books back from the States. I got into him through Glitz and LaBrava and Stick and Unknown Man #89 etc etc ... and what I liked about the books was that I'd be reading them with a huge grin on my face because of the sheer joy I took from the writing and the memorable characters he created through his incredible dialogue. It was like mainlining pleasure. It had to come, but it was a sad day when he left us.

Keith Dixon said...

I forgot to mention that I've written my own appreciation here: http://cwconfidential.blogspot.com/, where I say something about how he managed to engage his readers so quickly in his books.

Declan Burke said...

Nice one, Keith. That's a lovely piece.