Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard
Charles J. Rzepka
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard had a special knack for creating "cool" characters. In Being Cool, Charles J. Rzepka looks at what makes the dope-dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisors, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world cool. They may be nefarious, but they are also confident, skilled, and composed and cope without effort or thought. And they are good at what they do. Taking being cool as the highway through Leonard's life and works, Rzepka finds plenty of byways to explore along the way.
Rzepka delineates the stages and patterns that characterize Leonard’s creative evolution. Like jazz greats, he forged an individual writing style immediately recognizable for its voice and rhythm, including his characters' rat-a-tat recitations, curt backhands, and ragged trains of thought. Rzepka draws on more than twelve hours of personal interviews with Leonard and applies what he learned to his close analysis of the writer’s long life and prodigious output: 45 published novels, 39 published and unpublished short stories, and numerous essays written over the course of six decades.
plans to cut Terry out, send him back to Africa, and use the money to finance Debbie’s stand-up comedy career. How Terry puts two and two together and turns the tables on Debbie is not as important as what he decides to do with the money once he gets his hands on it, and that’s all Mary Pat’s doing. Terry’s sister-in-law, Mary Pat Dunn, is the only person in the world who can make Terry feel as guilty as “a teenage kid” (255), which is how he does feel when she and Fran arrive home from Florida
cook,” a skill she learned while growing up in New Orleans (Rzepka, “Interviews 6”). Mrs. Leonard subscribed to My Book House for her children’s benefit, and joined the Book of the Month Club and the Delphian Society, “which is what it sounds like,” says Leonard. “Culture. [ … ] All these ladies sitting around, and they would discuss books, and art and different things” (“Interviews 6”). It was through his mother’s subscription to the Book of the Month Club that Leonard, as a high school student,
Son Martin, who makes moonshine the way his father did, is backed by a colorful cast of ’stillers, small-town citizens, dyspeptic constables, and bootlegging gangsters straight out of the newspaper columns that filled Leonard’s early years with lurid tales of Bonnie and Clyde and Ma Barker’s Boys. The book’s remote mountain setting in the days before the Tennessee Valley Authority, when electricity was home generated and Federal prohibition agents were looked upon as advance troops of an invading
detective Raymond Cruz. The role of popular culture and the mass media in shaping personality and behavior, a recurrent focus of attention in Leonard’s subsequent work, is introduced as a central influence on the male protagonist. City Primeval is Leonard’s first police procedural; his first full-bore “eastern-western”; his first crime novel to feature an ethnic minority hero (thoroughly assimilated); and the next to last book he researched on his own. After Gold Coast (1980) he would begin his
little crazy, they gave the dirty jobs to. If you took the jobs, you took the way they spoke to you.” To “Chief,” “It wasn’t social, it was business” (8). That’s what being a professional is all about: you can’t take your business personally and survive—a fact that, as Armand will soon realize, Richie finds impossible to grasp. But even if you make a habit of not taking insults personally, they can still take away your person. “Don’t think about it” could serve as the motto of Armand’s life, as