Dark Genius: Elmore Leonard Doesn't like Mysteries-But He Does Have a Thing for Bad Behavior. (Crimetime)

By Brookman, Rob | Book, March-April 2002 | Go to article overview

Dark Genius: Elmore Leonard Doesn't like Mysteries-But He Does Have a Thing for Bad Behavior. (Crimetime)


Brookman, Rob, Book


FIFTY YEARS INTO HIS CAREER, ELMORE LEONARD, THE SEVENTY-six-year-old mastermind behind darkly comic bestsellers such as Freaky Deaky, Glitz and Get Shorty, is still marrying whip-smart prose with a seemingly inexhaustible cast of sleazeballs, scam artists and out-and-out psychopaths. In Tishomingo Blues, his thirty-seventh novel, Leonard conjures up a new mix, putting a traveling high-diver who witnesses a murder with the Dixie Mafia and a group of people whose passionate pastime is re-enacting Civil War battles. Book sat down with Leonard in his suburban Detroit home to discuss Bonnie and Clyde, nature shows and the pitfalls of book reviewing.

Have you always been fascinated by bad behavior?

ELMORE LEONARD I think most people are. You know, I lived in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Memphis between the ages of five and ten, at the time when desperados like Machine Gun Kelly and Pretty Boy Floyd were running around robbing banks. And I think it must have had an influence on me. There's a picture of me taken in Memphis when I was about nine or ten--I've got a foot on the running board of my parents' car and I'm pointing a pistol at the camera. And that's the famous Bonnie Parker pose, the picture that was in all the newspapers back then. That picture of me was taken within a few months of Bonnie and Clyde being killed in Louisiana.

The characters in your books--even your heroes--might delicately be termed "flawed." Do you take a dim view of human nature?

LEONARD Oh, I don't think so. Well, it is true I haven't written many heroic characters. Early on, I spent time with cops in Detroit, and I saw that they didn't always go by the book, that they cut corners and loved gray areas where they could rationalize their actions. …

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