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View Full Version : Where do I start with Elmore Leonard?


bluetoast
02-02-12, 10:08 PM
I'm considering chronologically, but I'm also wondering where The Complete Western Stories fits in, because that appears to have previously uncollected material. Is that correct?

Rex Power Colt-Robot Man
02-03-12, 05:27 PM
The mans been so prolific I dont think that it would be super easy to lay down a time line of his. I'd say start with Pronto, My Majestyk, Out of Sight and Get Shorty. If you dig them, then go ahead and dive into his western catalog.

story
02-03-12, 10:26 PM
I own around twenty-five of his books and some I like better than others and there are a few of the older ones I haven't dived into yet, my tastes tending toward his books from the last twenty years. I started with Get Shorty because I liked the movie and read Rum Punch right before I found out it was being made by Tarantino as Jackie Brown. From there, I moved on to Out of Sight right before it was made into a movie and I got spoiled by those three because they really are the best film adaptations of his work (Leonard keeps saying that, too).

He has three types of books: modern crime usually set in Detroit or Miami, westerns, and period thrillers. Each genre has its merit and is worth your time. There's also the stories featuring Raylan Givens from Justified. I'll touch on each a bit:

My favorite modern crime novels by Leonard are Tishomingo Blues, Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and Pagan Babies. That last one has a great audio book read by Steve Buscemi. All four of those books have Leonard's trademark groups of quirky characters whose lives start to crisscross in surprising ways and the drama and comedy mix really well. The Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool, is pretty good and loads better than the movie. The sort-of sequel (Leonard doesn't claim it as such) of Out of Sight is called Road Dogs and it's pretty good, too, though I prefer the former. Also, The Switch is the book featuring everybody but Jackie Brown / Rum Punch when they first met and it's pretty good, though I read Rum Punch first and that approach worked for me. Tishomingo Blues gets the most re-read for me, but maybe it's because it has Civil War reenacting in it and my family used to do that.

I know the least about the westerns, having only read a few of his short stories. There's some gems there, though, including The Tonto Woman, Hoorah for Captain Early, 3:10 to Yuma (different than the movie in a lot of ways, but both are good), Saint with a Six-Gun, No Man's Guns (my favorite of his western short stories), and Valdez Is Coming. The last is a novella is quite good and I don't think it's in the Complete Westerns collection. Haven't seen the Burt Lancaster movie, yet.

Lately, Leonard has been diving into 1899-1945 as a setting and it's been a real treat. There's a good one called Cuba Libre about the Spanish-American War and the USS Maine blowing up and Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill. Even features a distant relative of Bo Catlett, one of the bad guys from Get Shorty. The audio book is really well-read, too. Then there's the one-two punch of The Hot Kid and Up in Honey's Room about US Marshall Carl Webster set in the 1930s and 1940s. UiHR is a sequel and it's helpful to read THK first though if I was only going to pick one of the two to read I'd go with The Hot Kid. I'm pretty sure Leonard's use of US Federal Marshall characters like Karen Sisco (Out of Sight) and Raylan Givens (Riding the Rap, Pronto) led him to want to explore what they used to be like and he has a lot of fun with them.

Speaking of Raylan, if you're a fan of Justified and are looking for good Raylan Givens stories, "Fire in the Hole" appears in the short story collection When the Women Come Out to Dance and it has short stories featuring secondary characters from many of his novels. Riding the Rap is a good Raylan story and I like it better than Pronto. RtR is pretty much a sequel to Pronto, though, so it's nice having the context. I should probably give Pronto another chance as I listened to it on audio book and didn't care for Joe Montegna's choices as the reader. My copy of his new book, Raylan, arrived last week but I haven't had a chance to crack it open yet. Tricky thing about it is the Justified writers got to see it in its early form so there's bound to be both intense crossover and extreme differences between the book and season 2 so it will be an interesting read.

Finally, I'll add that while Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite writers, you'll find a lot of his stuff in used bookstores pretty easily and I've picked up my fair share of his work there. The library system where I live has tons of his stuff on audio (though Leonard told me in an online Q&A he couldn't care less about audio versions) and much of it is well-done. All the Raylan Givens stuff went back into print with matching covers, too, as a tie-into Justified and should be easy to find.

Enjoy!

bluetoast
02-04-12, 02:52 PM
Wow thanks for the advice guys, and especially your comprehensive post dogmatica...After reading your post I think i'll be reading some of the crime stuff first.

danfindlay
02-04-12, 03:03 PM
I started with Rum Punch because I loved Jackie Brown. I highly recommend The Hot Kid and the Raylan Givens books.

Rex Power Colt-Robot Man
02-05-12, 05:20 PM
dogmaticas post made me feel inadequate.

story
02-05-12, 07:52 PM
dogmaticas post made me feel inadequate.

Hmm, that's signature worthy material, right there. :D

I just really dig Elmore Leonard. At our apartment, the top two shelves of one bookcase are one of Neil Gaiman and one of Stephen King. The other bookcase's top two shelves are all Elmore Leonard (okay, and a little Larry McMurtry). Though if I put my money where my mouth is fully, I'd dive into those older novels (Stick, Cat Chaser, Split Images, Glitz, etc.) that I have on my shelf and haven't cracked. Started reading Freaky Deaky and Killshot a while back but life got busy.

Just thought of a few of his other books: I haven't read it in a long time but I have fond memories of Maximum Bob (modern crime) and after writing that post I have to say I'm itching to read Pagan Babies again - that one's minor characters and secondary henchman are so, so fun to read. Dutch has a children's book, too, A Coyote in the House, that's pretty neat. If you have kids in later elementary it may be fun to read it with them after reading other Leonard picks on your own.

Tell you what, I'll try and drudge up some of the Elmore Leonard books I've been meaning to read on audio book from my county library system and see if that can be my supplemental "pleasure reading" in the midst of a "required reading"-heavy semester. If I make it happen, I'll post thoughts here.

Let us know what you think as you read, bluetoast (and others).

Ash Ketchum
02-17-12, 01:21 PM
I own around twenty-five of his books and some I like better than others and there are a few of the older ones I haven't dived into yet, my tastes tending toward his books from the last twenty years. I started with Get Shorty because I liked the movie and read Rum Punch right before I found out it was being made by Tarantino as Jackie Brown. From there, I moved on to Out of Sight right before it was made into a movie and I got spoiled by those three because they really are the best film adaptations of his work (Leonard keeps saying that, too).


This. Ditto on starting with those three.

I've read maybe ten Elmore Leonards over the decades. The writing is always good even when the plots are weak. I also liked "The Big Bounce" and "Ryan's Rules" (aka Swag) a lot. The others less so. I recall reading "Bandits" and not liking it and "52 Pick-up," about which I have no recollection. I have also read "Mr. Majestyk" (not bad, not great) and "Valdez is Coming" (no recollection). If there's another one or two, I don't recall which ones they were.

Meglos
02-17-12, 02:11 PM
I also liked "The Big Bounce" and "Ryan's Rules" (aka Swag) a lot.

:thumbsup: What he said about Ryan's Rules (haven't read The Big Bounce).

crazychris88
02-17-12, 03:12 PM
My favorites are Mr. Majestyk, The Switch , Rum Punch, and Killshot. Just read Out of Sight. Decent but the movies better,