Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Elmore Leonard, author of the new the Hot Kid, became a hot kid himself somewhere around 1985. Whenever Glitz came out. He was on the cover of Newsweek, in Rolling Stone, in George Will's column -- who naturally extolled the virtues of Leonard's work ethic and clean unpretentious style -- and I gobbled up every one of his thrillers.

I seem to remember it all happening in a summer. Katie wasn't born yet. We were vacationing in in Hilton Head and I read Swag on the beach, and maybe Unknown Man No. 89.

I loved them all, and not just for nutritious George F. Will reasons. Leonard is an immensely funny man, as good thriller writers should be; Chandler and Hammett certainly knew that much. Gallows humor is an absolute necessity; ask any coroner.

You can read his books in a day; maybe that should be, you will read his books in a day, because you really don't want to put them down. One of the great Leonard lessons of thriller-writing: no "stopping places." Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and sooner or later, you find yourself cancelling plans and eating dinner from a can.

After it's over, you likely won't read the book again, but you just as likely won't forget it either.

It's been years since I've read him, and he seems to pop out about one a year. Getting together all the Leonard I've never read and consuming them -- that sounds like a summer project I could jump on. But project is the wrong word. Vacation is more like it.

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