Elmore Leonard died this week at the age of 87, having written nearly 50 novels, all highly suitable beach reading to take on your next vacation, if you haven’t already discovered and devoured his books.
Some of his stories happen in Florida, although Detroit is his more usual setting. Among his Florida-based novels are LaBrava, for which Leonard won an Edgar Award in 1984, and Rum Punch, Out of Sight and Riding the Rap.
Amazon.com describes Riding the Rap as ”an explosive, twisty tale of a brazen Florida kidnap caper gone outrageously wrong. Chock full of wildly eccentric and deliciously criminal characters—including a psycho enforcer with a green thumb, a Bahamian bad man, and the beautiful, unabashedly greedy psychic Reverend Dawn—Riding the Rap dazzles with Leonard’s trademark ingenious plot turns and razor-keen dialogue. Gripping, surprising, and unforgettable, it is a crime fiction gem that any thriller writer—from past masters John D. MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain to the bestselling mystery auteurs of today—would be thrilled to call his own.” Amazon’s then cleverly stokes sales for Riding the Rap with a quote from the New York Times Book Review, describing Leonard as “wicked and irresistible…a literary genius.”
If the New York Times, no less, describes Leonard as ”irresistible”, surely that’s as good a recommendation as any author can get? Just don’t let the word ‘literary’ scare you off. Leonard is a fun read, nothing like Grade 12 English homework, I promise.
If you’re just NOT a keen reader (I can accept that notion but I sure can’t understand it), then enjoy Elmore Leonard’s trademark snappy dialogue and less-than-perfectly-upstanding characters in Hollywood movie adaptations, among them Mr. Majestyk with Charles Bronson, Get Shorty and Be Cool with John Travolta and Quentin Tarentino’s version of Leonard’s Rum Punch.
Elmore Leonard also famously published his 10 rules for writing. While I have mastered Rule #5 — keep the exclamation marks to a minimum — I’m still working hard on #10: leave out the bits readers skip anyway.
Elmore Leonard was a master. RIP.