Leonard II

Turns out Leonard doesn't clip every sentence of dialogue. He cuts what at the start of a phrase, cuts all forms of is, sometimes leaves out pronouns. Especially it. Doesn't always leave out what and is, just most of the time.

He almost never writes partial words to show how something's said. Doesn't write "'sfunny" or "fuckin'"—always puts the final g at the end of -ing words. I thought he almost never abbreviated forms of is (as in "His name's Jimmy" or "Where'm I gonna go?") but looks like I was wrong.

Characters and the writing're compelling. Different writing style from Hammett or Chandler. Doesn't go off on metaphors. Clean vivid prose, understated. He breaks some rules, like he tells instead of shows but it works. Jumps point of view all to hell and gone. My impression is he never uses semicolons or colons. Not many dashes either, most of the time he just strings things together with commas.

You haven't read him, don't take my imitation as Gospel. I'm a style chameleon but better at parody than really getting it right. Yeah, he leaves off if at the start of a sentence too.

The plot's pretty tight. Couple things too convenient, couple places where one guy explains to another why you should think his unlikely hunch isn't so unlikely after all. Couple places you can see the seams if you look. But mostly it fits together.

One problem's the same as Harry Potter, the good guys do all sorts of shit and it's okay because they're the good guys. But Christ, you expect that from cops in a crime novel.

The dialogue's sharp, characters are funny. I laughed out loud maybe half a dozen times, all situation dependent stuff, nothing I could quote without giving you the wrong idea.

Hell of a lot of this book is just this guy Vincent going and talking to other characters. Like a fucking InfoCom adventure, you look at it that way. He asks them what happened, what they did, most of the time they tell him. But it works.

Hard to write lean, without all the extra shit you see in movie dialogue. Like profanity. Leonard doesn't use much, just a little where it counts. Effective. No wasted words, but not as choppy as this entry. Smooth.

Talked to my dad on the phone, other night. He said he read this stuff, crime novels. Figured, different tastes. But maybe he's got something.


Elmore Leonard's official Web site

Join the Conversation