Hopefully loyal readers have not been clicking the Long Beach bookmark every morning in April or continually refreshing a browser hoping for updated content. I know how you must be full of anticipation for whatever will next fill this space. It is much easier to string together a bunch of words when there are happenings worth documentation. It was not my intention to build any suspense for that handful of folks who choose to distract from monotonous cubicle hours by reading Long Beach from Home.
Elmore John Leonard, Jr. (October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013) was an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.
Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, and Rum Punch (adapted for the movie Jackie Brown). Leonard’s writings include short stories that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the FX television series Justified.
Commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue, Leonard sometimes took liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding the story along. In his essay “Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing” he said: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” He also hinted: “I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”
Elmore Leonard has been called “the Dickens of Detroit” because of his intimate portraits of people from that city; however, Leonard had said, “If I lived in Buffalo, I’d write about Buffalo.”His ear for dialogue has been praised by writers such as Saul Bellow, Martin Amis, and Stephen King.
Leonard often cited Ernest Hemingway as perhaps his single most important influence, but at the same time criticized Hemingway for his lack of humor and for taking himself too seriously. It was because of Leonard’s affection for Hemingway, as well as George V. Higgins, that he chose the University of South Carolina, where many of Hemingway’s and Higgin’s papers are archived, as the home for his personal papers. Leonard’s archives reside at the University of South Carolina’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Elmore Leonard started out writing westerns, then turned his talents to crime fiction. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, he’s written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty,Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd.
What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in his 10 tricks for good writing:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.