From catastrophic weather and violent school tragedies to increasing numbers of same-sex marriages and elected minorities, 2013 was a year of contrast and change. But for me, no impact hit closer to home in 2013 than the losses we chalked up among the familiar folks who signed off forever. From heroic Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid Read More
Of Elmore Leonard’s 45 published novels, about a third are set in Detroit, the city he lived in for most of his life and where he was buried last weekend at the age of 87. He spent his career in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, which as far as literary hamlets go, is not exactly Brooklyn. He wrote on yellow legal pads in a concrete room in his basement for about eight hours a day, without breaking for food. If Leonard ever used a semicolon, I have yet to come across it. His novels did not so much end as stop in mid-motion. He didn’t covet a literary reputation; he garnered none of the prestigious literary honors awarded to his peers. He was quick to point out his shortcomings to interviewers, even though he had very few. One of his greatest supporters was Mike Lupica, a sports writer. Leonard once said that he didn’t have many friends who were writers because all they did was talk about writing. He was too busy writing.
His crime novels eventually traveled all over the world—to Israel and Rwanda and Palm Beach and Harlan County—but Detroit was his greatest character. For decades, writers have tried to do that city justice, to get at the heart of its coldness, of all that ugly beauty–even more now since Detroit became the largest American city to ever declare bankruptcy in July–but only Leonard made it come alive so consistently. There are passages of his writing that have enough power to make Céline’s Detroit novel Journey to the End of the Night look like a brochure from the Michigan tourism board.
Writer Elmore Leonard died this morning, his researcher, Gregg Sutter, announced on Facebook.
“The post I dreaded to write, and you dreaded to read. Elmore passed away at 7:15 this morning from complications from his stroke. He was at home surrounded by his loving family. More to follow,” Mr. Sutter wrote on Mr. Leonard’s timeline.
Typically, journalists don’t get much fan mail so much as letters from The Concerned Public, weighing in on their take with whatever the matter of the day is. It makes sense: Reporters at daily newspapers—especially those who quietly, diligently, and often thanklessly hack away on metro beats—are usually tasked with the gathering of facts first and foremost, and then, the clear-eyed relaying of those facts (usually in a well-established format, like the inverted pyramid). Where there’s room for creativity, it’s in the subtle details, and they usually don’t end up the recipients of epic pieces of fan mail from world-renowned authors.
Until they do.
Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight , from a screenplay by Scott Frank, based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, crackles and snaps on the screen as the kind of exhilarating entertainment that makes it all look easy. All you need is a good script from a good novel, with sharp, pungent dialogue, creative direction that Read More