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No 1 Writer

John Sutherland, 5 September 1985

Glitz 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 251 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 670 80571 8
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LaBrava 
by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 283 pp., £2.50, July 1985, 0 14 007238 1
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Stick 
by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 304 pp., £2.50, August 1985, 0 14 007083 4
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The Hunting Season 
by J.K. Mayo.
Collins, 253 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 00 222783 5
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... fiction is as competitive as prizefighting. The current champion of thriller writers in America is Elmore ‘Dutch’ Leonard. With the imminent release of the film Stick (a much-hyped but somewhat limp adaptation directed by and starring Burt Reynolds) he should make number one here, too. ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... conscience, resist the tyranny of the faithful reader. If he had any sense, for instance, Elmore Leonard would continue pumping out more instalments of the life and adventures of his resourceful Ernest Stickley Jr, 89037 (i.e. Stick) or his burned-out IRS agent, LaBrava. Instead, Leonard has used his ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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Killshot 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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Trust 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... mean, but wouldn’t that be pretty much tautological? Certainly readers of George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard would be surprised by the claim as it stands. Binyon also accepts without questioning the distinction between detective fiction and thrillers, or what he sometimes calls adventure stories. This is a familiar distinction, and in certain ways a ...

Don’t tell nobody

Michael Wood: Cuba, 3 September 1998

Cuba Libre 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 352 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 670 87988 6
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Havana Dreams 
by Wendy Gimbel.
Knopf, 234 pp., $24, June 1998, 0 679 43053 9
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... about the timing of the tempest, she can always be helped out. One theory, quietly articulated in Elmore Leonard’s new thriller, is that the North Americans blew up the Maine themselves in order to start the war. Somewhere behind this notion lies the legendary cable Hearst is supposed to have sent to reporter Richard Harding Davis and cartoonist ...

Put it away, like a good girl

August Kleinzahler, 16 March 2000

Where I Live Now: Stories 1993-98 
by Lucia Berlin.
Black Sparrow, 240 pp., $25, March 1999, 1 57423 091 3
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... writer, by which I do not mean a genre writer of cowboy tales like Zane Grey or the younger Elmore Leonard, but that her stories, with only a few exceptions, are situated west of the Great Plains or in Mexico. Berlin herself was born in Alaska and spent most of her childhood in Chile – a setting for several stories. The daughter of a mining ...

Better than literature

Peter Campbell, 23 April 1992

Native Tongue 
by Carl Hiaasen.
Macmillan, 325 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 9780333568293
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... girls has a period flavour. He revives a Bond-movie style of fast-action farce; Willeford – and Elmore Leonard, who also finds in Florida crime a source for anarchic chills and threats – are realists by comparison. Hiaasen is, on the other hand, very quick on new phenomena: the girl who works on a porn phone-in line gets literary and syndicates her ...

Timo of Corinth

Julian Symons, 6 August 1992

A Choice of Murder 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 216 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7206 0832 5
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Portrait of the Artist’s Wife 
by Barbara Anderson.
Secker, 309 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 9780436200977
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Turtle Moon 
by Alice Hoffman.
Macmillan, 255 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 333 57867 8
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Double Down 
by Tom Kakonis.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 333 57492 3
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... readable. If you enjoy tough American thrillers Kakonis is less sentimental than the later Elmore Leonard, sharper and livelier than Sara Paretsky. In other words, the best ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘3.10 to Yuma’, 1957 & 2007 , 18 October 2007

3.10 to Yuma 
directed by James Mangold.
September 2007
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3.10 to Yuma 
directed by Delmer Daves.
August 1957
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... the contours and issues of both films remain the same, and both are faithful in their way to the Elmore Leonard story where they started, which means the new work also has its share of moral suspense and complexity. I can’t tell the end of the story – not the same in the new movie, though all the ingredients of the old formulation are there ...

Anglicana

Peter Campbell, 31 August 1989

A Particular Place 
by Mary Hocking.
Chatto, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 7011 3454 2
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The House of Fear, Notes from Down Below 
by Leonora Carrington.
Virago, 216 pp., £10.99, July 1989, 1 85381 048 7
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Painted Lives 
by Max Egremont.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 241 12706 8
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The Ultimate Good Luck 
by Richard Ford.
Collins Harvill, 201 pp., £11.95, July 1989, 0 00 271853 7
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... which follow Sonny’s predicament. The book has something of the gloss of the tough thrillers of Elmore Leonard, but the texture is closer, the writing more artful. Hemingway is father of more than the toughness: Harry has been working as a game warden. ‘But it had all given rise to a feeling he had never had before, even late in the war, down to ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland, 17 July 1997

Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... or even its Georgette Heyer: that is, the writer capable of lifting its clichés into art. Elmore Leonard might have done it, had he not decided to switch to crime ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... have moved closer to the present, though, his plots have mutated from dark conspiracies into Elmore Leonard-ish capers. The tone has become sunnier: fewer good guys are killed off, and the hero usually ends up getting the girl. Most of all, the high-tech stuff has moved from fantasy to something more like punditry. Gibson often seems as interested ...

Whamming

Ian Sansom: A novel about work, 2 December 2004

Some Great Thing 
by Colin McAdam.
Cape, 358 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 9780224064552
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... a religion’. He’s bribing people left, right and centre, like he’s running a racket in an Elmore Leonard novel. He’s also designing and building his own house, to his own exacting specifications, like he’s Wittgenstein: ‘a huge, white beauty of a self-cleaning wonder with marble floors, a piece of the sky under every ceiling, and walls of ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James, 26 January 2012

Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... We know what we are in for, just as surely as we do when we open an Agatha Christie or an Elmore Leonard. The formula is simple, repeated with variations in most of M.R. James’s 33 ghost stories, and still guaranteed to give pleasure today just as it did to those fuddled dons and sleepy schoolboys who first heard James read them by the light of ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair, 10 May 1990

Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... of dog-fighting is convincing, without being excessive. The bigger the advance you receive, as Elmore Leonard has discovered, the bigger the research team you have to carry: until the novel disappears under its cargo of unassimilated information. Ely’s pitch is pastoral, but sour. All the drift is towards the pit bull combat that provides the ...

Futzing Around

Will Frears: Charles Willeford, 20 March 2014

Miami Blues 
by Charles Willeford.
Penguin, 246 pp., £8.99, August 2012, 978 0 14 119901 6
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... and big-deal crime writers like Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block praise his work. ‘Nobody,’ Elmore Leonard said, ‘writes a better crime novel than Charles Willeford.’ Quentin Tarantino cited Willeford as one of the major influences on Pulp Fiction. There can be something a little suspect about being so well respected by fellow ...

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