Elmore Leonard Has Died


Prolific western and crime writer Elmore Leonard has died at the age of 87, due to complications from a stroke. The author, occasionally called the "Dickens of Detroit" (a label the man himself had issues with), was known for his quick fire dialogue and lack of filler description, which gave his novels and short stories a quick pace and gripping sense of realism. His blend of course language, desensitised violence and keen sense of humour influenced authors such as Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry, and Stephen King referred to him as the "great American author." 26 of Leonard's works have been adapted to film and TV, the best of which include Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and the TV series Justified. His final published novel was Raylan, blending the Raylan Givens character previously introduced in Riding the Rap and Pronto, with the version seen in Graham Yost's television series.

This hurts. Besides Douglas Adams, I can name no other author whose works have had as deep an impact on me, both as a reader and as a writer, then Elmore Lenoard. His style (and his incomparable Ten Rules Of Writing) is so immersive and accessible, it invites emulation. The apparently effortlessness of the simplicity of his dialogue makes every one else's sound stilted and hacky. If I ever successfully publish any prose, similarities to Leonard's formatting will no doubt abound (and never approach his level of quality). Perhaps the most enlightening thing Leonard ever taught me, something that no other teacher, professor or so called expert ever imparted, that dramatically changed the structure and tone of my own writing, was the simple instruction, "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue." When I read that, it was a thunder bolt.

From 1953 til last year, Leonard published roughly a novel a year. That level of output, with very little fluctuation in quality, is staggering and numbing. His attention to detail, while apparently avoiding description, is masterful. His characters are more fully realised and more human then many people I know in real life. And that his novels all exist within one massive shared universe, existing within a Bermuda triangle of Detroit, Harlan County, and Miami, is a feat of organisation and talent that few can pull off within specific series, let alone across an entire career.

That his genius is gone is just wrong. Minds like his deserve to outlast the rest of us.


Dammit to hell...
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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