I didn’t even know Elmore Leonard had a son, much less one who wrote. It’s not a complete surprise, since Peter Leonard has only published four novels to date, versus his father’s 45. His most recent is called All He Saw Was The Girl, and its opening scenes take place in an Italian jail, much like the one Peter spent a week in after a young drunken night in Rome led to he and some friends stealing a taxi-cab. When his father, already well on his way to being the high watermark of modern crime fiction, heard about this, he told his son, “Hard time makes the boy the man.”
It also helps make him a writer, it would seem.
There are many interesting tidbits about the Leonard writing dynasty in this excellent piece by Ann O’Neill over at CNN. Peter’s writing career is beginning to really get rolling, and Elmore’s profile has risen high in the mainstream these days due to the very well-deserved success of the FX show, Justified, which is based on the Raylan Givens character from the novels Pronto, Riding the Rap, the short story “Fire in the Hole,” and Elmore’s latest best-seller, simply titled Raylan. But for me and many other rabid crime buffs, the Leonard name has stood for quality fiction since the 1950s. So O’Neill’s article serves not only as an introduction to the uninitiated, but as further required reading for crime-fiends.
For example: it wasn’t too long ago that I bought and devoured the 1970 George V. Higgins novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and even a dimwit such as myself was able to see how the publication of that novel sent shockwaves throughout the genre which are still felt today. I guess it only makes sense that Elmore Leonard cites that book as the one that allowed him to find his own voice, to let dialogue drive his work, even if that meant using more swear words (to the dismay of his mother). Like I say, that only makes sense, but to a young snot like myself, Leonard’s fiction has always felt like it fell out of the sky, word-perfect and un-put-down-able. It’s interesting (to say the very least) to find that not only was I so deeply impressed by Eddie Coyle, but that the man who likewise inspired me to go all dialogue in my own fiction felt the same way. Wheels within wheels…
So whether you’re a life-long fan of the Leonard name or just always liked that Get Shorty movie, do yourself a favor and dig O’Neill’s article. And then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll hie down to the library and check out Peter Leonard’s work as well. If it says Leonard, you know it’s quality.