Just had to post something to note the passing of Elmore Leonard – one of the finest crime novelists ever to plonk themselves down in front of a yellow legal pad.
Elmore Leonard’s characters have the ability to capture the interest of those who maybe wouldn’t think of themselves of fans of ‘guys with guns’. If you haven’t read his work, you’ve may well have seen it adapted to film or TV. Some of the adaptations were woeful, but a couple were first class. In two – Get Shorty and Out of Sight – the directors of these films understood Leonard’s sensibilities and ‘got’ his clever dialogue. If you haven’t seen them, do it. Not right this second…but soon.
Leonard, along with a group of very talented writers who adapted his novella ‘Fire in the Hole’, is also responsible for one of my favourite TV shows of recent years (and it’s fast tracking it’s way to my ‘all time’ list). If you haven’t discovered Justified, then get out from under your rock and catch the hell up. You’re four seasons behind already!
The show is spectacular, the characters rich and superbly flawed, where the good guy can be bad (certainly, badass) and the bad guys are sometimes good-ish. It’s helped by the fact they have an amazing cast of actors, but seriously, I can’t say enough about this show. Two of the main characters – Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder – are two of my favourite characters anywhere, anytime. It’s another great example of where the writers have again stayed true to Leonard’s vision and voice, and the rewards are there for all. (Confession: I am a long-time fan of Timothy Olyphant, who plays Raylan, so that also feeds my joy over this show.)
I don’t know if this will sway you into watching, but seeing them earlier today entertained me no end, so here you go:
1. Raylan wisdom
2. Raylan and Boyd – two good ol’ boys who are much smarter than you think
But back to Leonard – there are three things I love about his writing. The first is: there is no filler. He wrote with the view of leaving out all the stuff people skim past – so his prose is lean, economical, immaculate. The second thing is the dialogue. I’m a sucker for sharp, clever wit and he has it in spades. But it’s also gentle and human – and sometimes alarming. Just sublime. The last thing, perhaps a little contentiously, is that he makes bad guys fun. Some might call that ‘glamourising crime and violence’ by another name, but I disagree. I think it’s clear the bad guys are bad, as is what they do. It’s simply adding a little fun and humanity into the mix. What’s wrong with that?
The last word to the man himself. Gold nugget advice. Here’s Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing.
“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
What he said.