Monday, October 11, 2010

Elmore Leonard: The Dickens of Detroit

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I never met a character in an Elmore Leonard novel I'd want to meet in real life, which is partly what gives his novels their zip. There is in his books an element of voyeurism that more writers ought to strive for; along with the conversational tone of the narrative and strong, honest dialogue, it all makes for a pretty potent combination.

Although he started out writing westerns, his more recent works detail the lives of thugs and goodfellas, most often in and around the Detroit area, where he's from. He's also written a number of screenplays - such as Get Shorty, which he adapted from his novel of the same name - which are notable for both the verve and the saltiness of their dialogue.

Although frequently compared unfavourably to pulp by critics - mainly snobs - Elmore Leonard's writing is both brisk and crisp, mainly due to a couple of rules he sets for himself. He has often said that, when writing, he leaves out the parts that readers skip; mainly, though, he says: 'If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.'
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