Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Novelist Elmore Leonard, New Orleans Native, Passes Away (Video)

Elmore Leonard had a good run, a career other writers can envy. He brought pleasure to readers with his crime novels and westerns, his sharp wit and edgy characters, his ear for the way Americans talk.

Born in New Orleans, October 11, 1925, Leonard, 87, passed away this morning. at his home in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. according to his website. The New York Times, CNN, and other media outlets have published his obituary.

He was a prolific novelist as you can see by his list of works at Amazon, and many of his books and stories made it to the screen. Some people know of him only through movies, Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Be Cool, Jackie Brown, and more. Perhaps others love his television characters, such as Raylan Givens of FX's Justified, but they haven't known that Raylan sprang from Leonard's mind.

I wasn't particularly shocked to hear of his death because Steven Hart posted a link last week or so to an article about Leonard suffering a stroke and given Leonard's age, I knew to brace myself. But I am saddened nonetheless. Hart, a novelists himself, has also posted links today to different Leonard obituaries, such as this one by novelist Thomas Pluck. He also posted this gem, a 2002 book review by Margaret Atwood of Leonard's novel Tishomingo Blues.

And I love this tidbit/photo I found, "So Elmore Leonard and Walter Mosley stopped by . . ." And this video of 10 Questions for Elmore Leonard from Time Magazine. In it he talks about growing up in Detroit and which movie based on his books that he liked the most. Also, he wrote all those books by hand and didn't use email or have a computer. What I found most interesting is that he said that the characters must tell their own stories: "I can't write in a literary way where my sound is what you're reading." That statement intrigued me because I know some MFA professors who would immediately say, "That' not what literary writing is!" The difference between "literary" and "popular" fiction is an old debate.

What more can I say? Leonard could write. I loved the way he used language. His dialogue crackled, and his characters make me laugh, wince, and sigh. Many of us are also familiar with his book Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Writing. Of course, lots of writers have rules for writing, but it never hurts to pay attention to writing advice from a man who's managed to earn a good living from his writing, pleased even critics, and written so many strings of words well. May he rest in peace.