Farewell, Elmore Leonard. And thanks.

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, taking a few minutes to pay tribute to one of the crime writers who had a profound influence on the genre, and on me.

Elmore Leonard passed this week, and writers and critics paid homage to a writer who changed the way this fiction can be written. I remember reading my first Elmore Leonard novel many years ago. I don’t recall which one (I’ve read them all, including his more historical stuff and the wonderful early westerns), but I remember thinking, “Hey, he can’t do that.” But he had, stretching the rules to reflect what really goes on in our heads, cranking the throttle so the pages turned faster than before.

What Leonard did was remove the barriers that exist between reader and character.  I remember him saying somewhere that he cut out all of the parts of a book that readers skim. He set up his dialogue with minimalist bursts of prose. Like this, chosen randomly from the first Leonard book I saw on the shelf when I turned in my study chair,  Be Cool. This is the sequel to Get Shorty. Picture John Travolta, if you want.

It was set for Wednesday evening.

Chili said to Sin Russell, “I’ll be at the shopping center no later than five-thirty. You and your guys’ll be down the street from the social club, on Crescent Heights. As soon as I see ’em coming out of the photo shop I call and give you the signal. I say, The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.”

This was earlier Wednesday on the phone.

If it sounded like Sin got it, Chili was going to say, And I don’t mean Alan Arkin in a fuckin submarine.

But all the man said was, “That’s the signal, huh?”

So Chili went on with the plan.

If that made you smile, thank Elmore “Dutch” Leonard, who dared to take out all the words that get skipped and include only the words that count.

If you’re so inclined, please visit my author page on Facebook or follow me (gerryboyle) on Twitter.



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1 Response to Farewell, Elmore Leonard. And thanks.

  1. Nice tribute, Gerry. Elmore Leonard was one of the greats. So, in the traditional mystery and modern gothic genres, was Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, who passed away a short time ago at 85. They both inspired at least two generations of writers and, since their books live on, I expect they’ll continue to inspire new writers for a long time to come. What greater legacy could any writer ask for?


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