If you know of his work, I’m merely singing to the choir, however even non-readers may know of Elmore Leonard by osmosis — via the many adapted works throughout his incredible career. Most recently, the FX television series Justified blossomed from a single short story, Fire in the Hole, portraying Raylan Givens as a U.S. Marshall or a modern cowboy of sorts.
If you love westerns, 3:10 to Yuma is incredible, and it is has been made into a movie twice. Get Shorty, Jackie Brown (from Rum Punch), Out of Sight are a a few of the films that highlight a career with 50 or so novels, short stories and screenplays, with over half of them finding a place on television or in film.
I didn’t know Leonard was my hero at first either. I initially ‘heard’ the voice and influence of the writer through the works of Quentin Tarantino. Each creative force shares a love for dialogue driven stories with fascinating and unique characters, often with a darker edge. In Tarantino’s case, his characters tend to have really, really dark edges.
Ultimately, each writer plays a substantial inspirational role in my creative process and I love the standard they set as I sit down at the keyboard each day. And rather than brag too much about Elmore Leonard in a standard ‘favorite author blog’, I thought I could generate an example of said inspiration right here.
“What do you mean, right here?” asked Bart.
“A dialogue driven example of how a story can happen over a simple conversation, even where we sit,” Jed answered.
“In this old saloon in Laredo, Texas?” Bart asked again. “It don’t make no sense.”
“Sure it does Bart.”
“How long you been tracking me, boy?”
“Since Galveston, when you and your boys hit that bank.”
“Damn, you must have really wanted to talk to me, if you been following me since then.”
“I really do,” as Jed raised the whiskey glass to his lips.
“Best get to talking then boy,” and then Bart reached down toward his holster, as if to assure his Colt still rested there.
“I just wanted to thank you, for those years you took me in, before I have to go to work today,” Jed replied, eyeing Bart’s hand fiddle with a Colt revolver handle.
“Thank me?” And Bart forced a laugh. “Well alright then, I suppose we had to take you in since you had no place to go.”
“You made sure of that.”
“It was me or your pa.”
“It wasn’t like that, he was just trying to defend his home and kin.”
“Like I said, it was me or him. All he had to do was step aside.”
“I guess I just don’t see it that way.”
“Well, that’s too bad boy. We didn’t have to take you in them years.”
“That’s true, but it wasn’t like I was gonna forget what you done.”
“Okay, well you tracked me, you thanked me, now you best get to movin’ on.”
“You didn’t ask me about my new job,” and before Bart could ask, Jeb slipped his overcoat back to reveal a slightly battered and bent, five star badge with the words “Texas Ranger” etched across the front. Bart’s jaw dropping reaction was all the time Jeb needed to draw his weapon, level it and fire before Bart could raise his Colt to fire back.
Bart fell back onto the wood floor, a small plume of dust enveloped him as his body settled onto the ground.
“I guess all the talking is done then,” Jed said.