Friday, February 18, 2011


Just finished Be Cool by Elmore Leonard. Leonard is a great entertainer as a writer, knows how to create memorable characters and how to tell a story. So many of his books have become films you might be astonished. Be Cool is a follow up of the Chili Palmer saga, the shylock who makes good in Hollywood, whom John Travolta played in Get Shorty.

Before that it was Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House. I remember when Welcome came out. I was into his novels at the time and did not get into the stories. Now, I've returned full circle to give them another try. Vonnegut is definitely a capable writer and like Leonard knows how to craft a story. Some stories reminded me of Gulliver's Travels. Others were pointed, with wry twists... and much to think about.

I was introduced to Elmore Leonard's writing by Twin Cities journalist and radio personality Joe Soucheray over lunch at a writers conference at Mankato State University in April, 1985. Joe found delight in Leonard's style and dismay at how difficult it really is to write a novel of one's own. At the time he was six chapters in and stymied. Alas, I've attempted two and completed one myself, but fifteen years later it languishes in a drawer.

But we're talking about Mr. Leonard here, his stories being possibly a bit raw for some tastes, but always satisfying. Elmore Leonard novels that I've read which that became films include:
Out of Sight
Get Shorty
Rum Punch (as the 1997 film Jackie Brown)
Hombre (Paul Newman is good, the book's even better.)
Mr. Majestyk (Charles Bronson)
Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster)
Stick (Burt Reynolds)
Cat Chaser (Peter Weller)
Be Cool (John Travolta)
Killshot (Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke)
Freaky Deaky is scheduled to be filmed in 2011.

Three-Ten to Yuma was a short story which was translated twice into film, the re-make starring Russell Crowe. Leonard was once a writer of Westerns, and a recurring theme in many of his books is the high noon showdown between the good guy and the baddest of the bad guys.

Quite a few of his other novels have also been made into movies, but I've not read them all. On the other hand, there are still a number of others I did read that are not only enjoyably entertaining, but will likely make good films some day as well. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Everything in its time.

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