2013 was the year Elmore Leonard died and I collected some notes which I want to file away for future use. I have in mind that there is a job to be done on Music In Elmore Leonard, so I was interested in a line from Peter Leonard, writing an appreciation of his dad which was quoted in an Obituaries of the Year feature, Gdn 13.12.13 …
“Elmore wore jeans and Birkenstocks, Nine Inch Nails and Drive-by Truckers T-shirts. He was friends with Steven Tyler, and invited Aerosmith over to his house to swim and play tennis.”
I was interested to discover Peter Leonard has had novels published – including Back from the Dead, Voices of the Dead and Trust Me – and is at work on completion of Elmore’s last book, working title Blue Dreams, starring deputy US marshal Raylan Givens, the character developed in the tv series Justified. I will review Peter Leonard here later.
I am sure he is not going to be guilty of it but having read a few Elmore wannabes, I had some sympathy for DJ Taylor in the Independent, 10.4.2000, discussing the American author Kinky Friedman and a recent slew of London-based geezer tales:
“The market is awash with crime and caper fiction. Most of it comes courtesy of ex public schoolboys doing their research in back numbers of Loaded and biographies of the Kray twins.
“Working from the premise that, from the vantage point of language, crime fiction needs to be sharp as a tack, modern American exponents often come up with whole sentences that are more or less incomprehensible to anyone born outside the few square miles of the Bronx where the action takes place.”
Finally, for the Filofacts section of this site, which is supposed to build into the essential steam-powered go-anywhere personal organiser, here are Elmore’s 10 Rules For Writers, summarised by me from a summary in the Guardian – http://tinyurl.com/kd3g4lr/ – when Elmore published the rules as a book (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) …
1 Never open with a weather report. Or as Elmore’s son Peter recalled the advice: “I recited the opening line: ‘The wind howled like a beast in pain.’ Elmore took a beat and said: ‘Never open a book from the wind’s point of view.’”
2 Avoid prologues – especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.
3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said, as in “gravely” or “laughingly”.
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed two or three per 100,000 words.
6 Never use the word “suddenly”.
7 Use regional dialect sparingly.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of how characters look.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things either.
10 Try to recognise when you are writing the bits readers tend to skip.
In summary: if it reads like writing, rewrite it.