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On Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard wrote about intelligence. He understood how characters’ aspirations abraded against the limitations of those around them, or against their lower urges. Consequently Leonard also understood that frustration, with oneself and with others, was the steadiest and readiest engine to story. His death this week means that we will never read another new character who knows exactly the next thing to say, or fumbles with his gun, or can’t leave her man. His Detroit, and LA, and New Jersey, and Old West is the world where people are just as fallible and hopeful and lonesome as you, and though it will no longer expand, it will remain self-sustaining.

In honor of the greatest and most generous American crime writer, I ask you to do one thing: find one of his books—any title—and read it for the one character who loves the world he lives in. That person is in every single Elmore Leonard novel—someone who, despite their limitations, possesses an innate curiosity. That person is you, dear reader. That person is the author. And he knows that reading a story means that you wish and look forward to more from the world. Join this man in celebrating how sharp and clever and sorrowful life can be. Love how much you wish to know.