Friday, August 23, 2013

Elmore Leonard, RIP

I sat in a room with Elmore Leonard
telling Bill Buckmaster that Hemingway didn't have a sense of humor and talking about writing books because he liked the names of places (Djbouti, Tishimingo) and selling a 4500 word story called 3:10 to Yuma for $90.

I wrote that on March 15, 2010, in my post about the Tucson Festival of Books.  After hearing him speak, I went to the library and began a tour through his entire oeuvre.  I reserved the books.  I read ancient paperback editions and decrepit hardcovers and I paid for one or two at Bookmans.  

I was left hungry for more.  And now there won't be any more.

I'm inexpressibly sad.  That sentence was a lot longer but the PS from the cast of Justified shut me right up: 
 We wrote longer versions of this statement, but as Elmore always said: Leave out the parts people tend to skip.  
There was never a reason to skip any parts of an Elmore Leonard story. Every sentence advances the plot; every conversation reveals character, every comma requires a pause. It seems effortless, but it wasn't. 

The most important rule in his 10 Rules of Writing is this:  If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Whenever I am tempted to think of The Burrow as literature, I remember that rule. I write. I proofread. Sometimes I let it stew for an hour or two. Mostly, what you get is unadulterated brain-to-fingertips... and sometimes it is only fingertips to keyboard.

Elmore Leonard's presence gave respectability to the Tucson Festival of Books, as one of the founders told the Arizona Star.  It felt like he was one of us, sizzling in the desert, feeling the cowboy roots even if we'd just arrived from paved places. His voice was behind his characters, just a little bit smarter and craftier and wiser than they were willing to let on. I'm glad that I had the chance to sit in an auditorium and listen to him opine.  I'm sad that I won't have the opportunity again.


(All quotes taken from USA Today)

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