From Gawker, the announcement of Elmore Leonard’s death. He was one of my favorite authors, having read almost everything he had published.
One of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, doesn’t use semicolons in dialog. Kurt Vonnegut doesn’t like them at all. Paul G. Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, apparently likes to use them in a manner opposite of their purpose, which is to join related clauses. Kind of weird—from Throw Grammar From the Train.
Read the short piece to see what joining unrelated clauses looks like.
From The Telegraph:
John Cheever’s centenary is being celebrated in America today with the publication of a new edition of his collected stories.
Cheever, who was born on May 27th in Quincy, Massachusetts, was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th century and was described by Elmore Leonard as “the Chekhov of the suburbs.”
Cheever was the son of a failed shoe salesman – the writer’s mother ran a “cluttered gift shop” – and he understood the ambition and inferiority complexes of post-war American life. He could be funny about the “crushing boredom” of life in the suburbs with the “stupid, depressed and uncreative” people who populated their tidy houses but he was more than just an angry critic of torpid rural life. As his contemporary John Updike put it: “John Cheever was often labelled as a writer about suburbia; but many people have written about suburbia. Only Cheever was able to make an archetypal place out of it.”
Read the whole thing at the link.
From The New York Times, by Olen Steinhauer:
In an essay that appeared in The New York Times in 2001, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,” Elmore Leonard listed his 10 rules of writing. The final one — No. 11, actually — the “most important rule . . . that sums up the 10,” is “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” It’s a terrific rule. In fact, I liked it so much that I passed it on to a creative-writing class I once taught. However, there’s more to it, which I didn’t pass on: “Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
Jazzy prose that occasionally lets go of “proper usage” is Leonard’s trademark…
From the Guardian, an article about one of my favorite authors:
The best novelists create a world around the reader. You can feel it bubbling up in irrepressible invention. So we have “a guy by the name of Booker, a twenty-five-year old super-dude twice convicted felon” in his Jacuzzi when the telephone rings. No one answers it, and Booker gets out of the Jacuzzi. At the other end of the line, a woman, Moselle, asks him to sit down. When he does, she informs him that he’s triggered a bomb in the chair – “when you get up, honey, what’s left of your ass is gonna go clear through the ceiling”. The bomb-disposal boys arrive in their nonchalant way: “Booker said ‘Another one goes hmmmmm. I’m sitting here on high explosives the motherfucker goes hmmmmm.'” Is there a bomb? They can see 10 sticks of dynamite underneath Booker. But they can’t see a fuse. And now Booker really needs to go to the bathroom, and one bomb-disposal guy is talking about his wife Phyllis’s bad behaviour to a waiter in a restaurant. “Phyllis goes, ‘Wally, when we’ve finished dinner, you gonna take us out and introduce us to the dishwasher?’ She goes ‘We really don’t care what your name is as long as you’re here when we want something.'” And there we leave them.
Elmore Leonard is something of a living legend among lovers of crime fiction. A favorite of millions of readers, a hero to scores of writers, he’s been called “America’s greatest crime writer.” The 86-year old author has been writing bestselling books for sixty years, mostly Westerns and crime novels. Many of them have been turned into hit movies, including “3:10 to Yuma,” “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight.”
Now, Leonard returns to one of his favorite characters in his newest book, his 45th novel to be exact, titled simply, “Raylan.” That would be U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. The laid back, Stetson-wearing lawman first appeared in Leonard’s novels, “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap” and again in the 2001 short story, “Fire in the Hole” which became the basis for the hit TV show, “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant as the title character. The actor and the show are winning over fans, critics and Leonard himself. So much so that Leonard has returned to writing about “Raylan.”
The book just hit store shelves the same week the show had its third season premiere. Leonard, gracious and unassuming, shows no signs of slowing down at this point in his career.
The author spoke to CNN from his home in Michigan. The following is an edited transcript.
You took up writing fiction after retirement. What compelled you to pursue the craft?
Actually, I worked in the corporate world my whole career—about forty years—a good many of those years in sales and marketing, which involved working on annual and strategic plans. So, I’ve had lots of experience writing fiction.
Okay, that’s funny, but why did you want to write this story—Waiting for Zoë?
I give my mother credit for putting the notion of writing a book into my head. In 1976, at age sixty-three, she wrote a short memoir. It was an impressive achievement, full of warm reminiscences of growing up on a farm and some signal events in her life. I thought, “One day, I could do something like that.” It only took me another thirty-some years to take on the challenge of writing a novel.
The title of the linked article is Rent it now: The Elmore Leonard movie nobody knows, which isn’t quite true. Some of us folks out there remember the book and the movie quite well. An excerpt:
Many Elmore Leonard novels have been brought to the screen – with mixed results – but my favorite adaptation is one very few people have ever heard of, let alone seen.
The 1986 John Frankenheimer drama, “52 Pick-Up,” suffered the misfortune of being produced and distributed by the Cannon Group, a long-forgotten company that specialized in Chuck Norris action pictures and pop-culture-fad movies about things like break dancing.
The Frankenheimer version of the Elmore Leonard novel is a tough and rather nasty look at the intersection of high life and low life in Los Angeles two decades ago. It’s a crime drama that packs an unusually strong emotional punch.
(Hat tip: Elmore Leonard)
I’ve seen all the shows from the first three seasons of AMC’s Breaking Bad, which premiered it’s fourth season July 17—another tense show that brought closure (sort of) to the loose end from season three. One critic calls it “Simply the Best Program on Television.” I don’t know. Justified, on FX, is pretty darn good and I’ve seen all of those, but then I like just about anything that Elmore Leonard is involved with. The Los Angeles Times also called Breaking Bad “the best show on TV.” Both shows are excellent, but not for the faint of heart.