I smiled at a podcast called Doug Loves Movies when on a recent episode a guest said that when he was young he could not watch rated R movies, but he could read the books. I smiled because I had the same type of parents, but a bigger appetite. I would read the book of any movie, no matter what the rating.
Most were novelizations like Back to the Future and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Others, unbeknownst to me, were books first, like Jurassic Park and Interview with a Vampire and all the Stephen King stuff. My need for stories started in the dark cinema and ended with a flashlight under the covers.
In 1995, a movie called Get Shorty came out. I have a memory of my mom gifting me the book with John Travolta, Danny Devito, Gene Hackman, and Rene Russo on the front, but I may have bought it myself.
This has to be a good book, I thought, it has Gene Hackman in it.
That book happened to be by Elmore Leonard. I loved it. The characters, the attitude of the book blew the people on the screen away. (Sorry, Mr. Hackman.)
I have to say before this not all my literary world had been “movie books.” I went through the Hardy Boys, Treasure Island, a ton of classics and everything they put out at school, but something about the connection from the book to the “real people” on the screen worked better.
Mr. Leonard and his words made that connection nothing. With just his words, Elmore Leonard made the movie happen on the page, forced the action and the characters through their paces and in the end not everyone got out alive. Hell, most people were pretty broken to begin with.
Diving into Mr. Leonard, I finished all the books by him in the crime section and did not even mind some of the westerns. Crime fiction, not mysteries, has interested me ever since, the idea of the bad things we humans can still do not involving a big puzzle. That the bad guy can just be shot or run over randomly. That life happens in books.
Mr. Leonard, you taught me that characters are not good or bad. They are people, reaching through the page and acting on their own. Mr. Leonard, you made me want to work the magic you did; you inspired me in a way few others have. You made me want to make movie magic on the page. For that I will always be grateful.
The world is lesser without more Elmore Leonard in it.