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Old 02-10-2017, 09:44 PM   #1
Pulpmeister
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Elmore Leonard and Me

Elmore Leonard and Me

I'm not certain which Elmore Leonard I read first, nor when: probably 30 years ago, and probably 52 Pickup. Or possibly Switch (paperbacks from second-hand bookstores).

A few years later I picked up Glitz and LaBrava. Glitz remains my favourite, mainly because the lead character, Vincent Mora, is memorable and engaging. Sometime around then came Killshot and Maximum Bob.

After that there was a long gap, until recently I started a sort of Elmore Leonard mini-binge, re-reading Glitz and LaBrava, and then working through the following (not necessarily in this order) in the last 12 months.

Tishomingo Blues
The Big Bounce
Mr Majestyk
City Primeval
Freaky Deaky
Unknown Man No 89
Swag
Stick
Valdez is Coming
Gold Coast
Out of Sight
Pronto
Road Dogs

and several others, including the very recent Raylan.

One conclusion I came to is that bingeing on Leonard is not a good plan, at least for me. Because his books are mostly dialogue, they can blur together. It's best to space them out, with other books between. Let the book ferment in the mind for a while.

The other is that Leonard never quite stopped writing westerns. Many of his crime novels are essentially westerns, in a modern urban setting. Mr Majestyk, if relocated to the 1890s, is a straightforward western plot. And of course City Primeval (subtitled High Noon in Detroit) makes no bones about its western inspiration.

On the list above, Valdez is Coming is the only western proper, and Leonard rated it his favourite. It was foreshadowed in a short story "The Tonto Woman."

I was a bit surprised to find Cundo Rey, shot dead in La Brava, surfacing alive in Road Dogs many years later.

I haven't read all Leonard, probably never will. I've covered a fair bit of his output though, and will probably re-read one or two favourites again after a suitable pause. But somehow or another, entertaining as he is, he's not my favourite American crime writer. Quite possibly I may prefer more description and atmosphere in novels, and in his interview with Martin Amis, Elmore Leonard said that he wasn't very good at that; hence his spare, dialogue-heavy style. Playing to his strengths.

One thing about Elmore Leonard: his books didn't go "off" with his aging. A late novel like Raylan is as lively as any of his early ones. An exception may be Up in Honey's Room which recycles an awful lot of The Hot Kid. It pays not to read Hot Kid and then Honey's Room consecutively. Or even close together.

Last edited by Pulpmeister; 02-10-2017 at 10:06 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 02-11-2017, 05:10 AM   #2
MickeyC
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Interesting analysis and, based on this, like you I may do some rereads. Thanks
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Old 02-11-2017, 10:30 AM   #3
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I bought a collection with all of Leonard's westerns, and I enjoyed them. Like you suggested, I read a little at a time over several years.

I haven't tried any of his non-Westerns though. Thanks for the analysis.
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