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Remembering Elmore Leonard


The incredibly successful and infinitely talented writer Elmore Leonard has sadly passed away today. The 87-year-old author of books such as Get Shorty and Rum Punch was seen as one of the most influential figures in the crime genre.

The effect Leonard has had on other writers is not to be underestimated and to show this, here are five authors on their favourite Leonard novel.

UNKNOWN MAN No89 (1977)

“If writing styles were rock stars, Elmore Leonard’s would be Iggy Pop: tough, sinewy and full of attitude. Unknown Man No89 packs one hell of a punch, combining whip-crack dialogue, sparkling characterisation and prose that surges forward. I’ve never taken more than three sittings to finish one of his novels, but this one I did in one.”

Matthew Pritchard’s new thriller Scarecrow is out 25 September


“Mid-period Leonard; the style pitched between the more straightforward earlier books and later, largely comic, tales such as Get Shorty. In one scene, a police officer finds himself attracted to a woman who has been abused. In lesser hands it would be misogynistic and coarse; but such is his skill, it comes over as remarkably even-handed.”

Good Bait by John Harvey is published in paperback by Arrow

SWAG (1976)

“Leonard at his brilliant, fat-free best: used-car salesman Frank Ryan teams up with Ernest ‘Stick’ Stickley to break into the armed robbery business. It’s fast, funny and highlights why so many screenwriters owe Leonard so much. Leonard’s 10 rules of writing include, “Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” Trust me, you won’t skip a word.”

The Dying Hours by Mark Billingham is published by Little Brown


“Unpublished for three years, it remained in obscurity until Get Shorty hit big in the Nineties. The story of a tough ex-con who’s dragged into the mad, thrill-seeking world of a femme fatale. I love the line, ‘She didn’t need money. She didn’t need another man. She just needed kicks – what she called ... The Big Bounce.’”

Nick Taussig’s latest novel The Distinguished Assassin is out now


There are 29 Elmore Leonard’s on my bookshelf: I just counted. City Primeval was the first I ever read. It was 1982. I was just starting as a writer and I was blown away by the cool, uncluttered swing of his writing, the vivid characters and the hipster criminality. I wanted so badly to be able to write like that. I knew I never could.

Ostland by David Thomas, published by Quercus, is out now

(Image: Rex Features)


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