Elmore Leonard died. He was an awfully good writer; I’ve read loads of his books, some more than once or even twice, and regret it not a bit. There have been lots of grateful obits — my favorite is by Joan Acocella in the New Yorker — and they all say you should go read Get Shorty and yeah, it’s good, you should. So here are some more that aren’t usually in lists of his big hits but are really good too.
Stick, from 1983, is actually a sequal to Swag, but I think it’s way better. Ernest Stickley is a loveable guy fresh out of jail for armed robbery who gets a really lousy chauffeuring job for a really irritating rich guy and, well, lots of amusing things happen and, as with most Leonards, you just know, you can feel it, that there are people like that doing things like that. Impossible not to like.
Bandits, from 1987, strays a little outside of Leonard’s fruitful hoods-in-Detroit and hoods-in-Florida comfort zones. Well yeah, there’s a hood, but he’s working for an undertaker and with a renegade nun, who alone is worth the price of admission. We also have Nicaraguan contras and thus politics, subtle and deadpan of course, but with impact. I totally love this book.
Leonard got his start writing Westerns, and at least one of the appreciations I read point out that his writing got so much better, don’t y’know, when he got out of that formula. Maybe it did, but these are some excellent Westerns: Atmospheric, interesting people in tough situations, the violence usually implicit or off-stage but never not threatening. There are a bunch of collections and I bet they’re all good, but the one I’m plugging is The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories. The title piece in particular will grab at your heart.
But whatever, buy any old Leonard and you’re apt to like it. I’ll snarf up a few that I haven’t read for my next airplane trips.