Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Of all the tough guy writers I admire (some of the tough guys are females), I'm most in awe of Elmore Leonard. Ross Macdonald wrote paragraphs that absolutely stopped me; the Archer novels are my favorite P.I. series. I'm generally fond of Californian settings; writers have to be aware of the standards set by Hammett & Chandler. But Elmore's craft is so invisible, his mastery so complete, his range so wide, his humor so dark & quirky, his amazing ability to fill out a character's character in so few words ... Sometimes I can guess where he's going - he has his predictable story traits - but how he gets there is almost always a trip. I've only read about 1/4th of his novels. His most recent, Djibouti, is one of the few that disappointed me, but by comparison with Elmore. It was still a really good read. Elmore has a special gift for finding the strange ethical code or good heart at the core of a seemingly amoral personality, & showing how a seemingly moral person may be amoral. The latter is a feature of American popular fiction, since our peculiar arrogance regarding our moral superiority constantly needs debunking. Elmore completely comprehends what philosopher Alan Watts called 'the irreducible element of rascality" in human beings.