December 21, 2014
Elmore Leonard, An Appreciation
So you’re asking, “Ken, what the hell? Elmore Leonard didn’t write science fiction or fantasy. What’s a post about him doing on your web log?” To which I say, “Huh?” and proceed to otherwise ignore the question.
It is true that – to the best of my knowledge anyway – Elmore Leonard did not produce any speculative fiction. I wish he had. I’d like to read an Elmore Leonard fantasy. He did cut his teeth on Westerns. You may have heard of a story titled “3:10 to Yuma.” Yeah, that was Leonard. So he could have written pulp sci-fi if he’d wanted. You know the commonplace wisdom – replace six-shooters with blasters and horses with spaceships and your Western becomes sci-fi. Not hard sci-fi, and not necessarily good sci-fi, but it could be. And a good story is a good story no matter the trappings.
Elmore Leonard developed perhaps the most unique writing voice in modern American Fiction. His style is unmistakable. It is immediate, engaging. It is unquestionably a painstakingly crafted style, but it reads as naturalistic, real. He had a tremendous ear for dialogue, rarely writing speech that rings forced or flat. A rare gift.
Hollywood at least appreciated the gift, though the film adaptations flopped as often as they missed. “Out of Sight” and “Get Shorty” soared. “The Big Bounce” didn’t, two tries failing to get it right.
Sadly, we’ll see no more stories from the master of American crime fiction. Elmore Leonard died in 2013. He’ll be missed. But his books will live on. That reminds me, it is time to get back to reading “Bandits.”