Elmore Leonard: RIP

What a loss. The greatest American writer of crime and western fiction, gone.


I read his second-to-last novel, Djibouti, a couple years ago in something like awe. Here was a man in his 80s, still inventing new ways to tell stories. Djibouti broke one of the major rules of good storytelling, which is “show, don’t tell.” Instead, the story was mostly told mostly through the two major characters talking about what had happened. But Leonard made it work, just as breezily entertaining and engrossing as ever.

It’s not even possible to pick a favorite novel of his. I’m looking at my office bookshelf, the one littered in favorites, and there’s just so much Leonard on there I wouldn’t know where to begin. Maybe I’ll just grab one at random, read it tonight, and make that one my favorite. Until I grab another book at random a few days from now.

Amazon will never send me another notice telling me there’s a new Elmore Leonard coming out.

I don’t know what to do with that.

He had the most believable bad guys, the coolest good guys, the snappiest dialog, and the freakiest-deakiest stories. And to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, I don’t know that Leonard ever wrote five words but that he didn’t cut seven. Am I saying he was economical? He made Calvin Coolidge look like Barack Obama.

Elmore Leonard was the best.