Warren Oates and Elmore Leonard


Elmore Leonard Stick (1983) 

Recently released from prison after a seven-year stretch, Stick is finding it hard to comprehend some of the changes that have taken place.

Stick thought he had kept up … But maybe he had missed a few important events and passings. Nobody had told him when Warren Oates died last spring. He had heard about Belushi but not Warren Oates.

Stick’s judgements on those he meets are often measured by how well they stack up against his favorite actor:

Stick looked at the mirror, at the young millionaire trying to sound street …The street tone didn’t go with the words. Guy didn’t know how to stay in character… Trying to sound on the muscle now, a hard-nose. The guy should try for the movies. See if in about a hundred years he could take Warren Oates’s place.

Against Warren everyone comes out looking like a phoney, when someone suggests CHiPs star Erik Estrada should be cast in a cop movie, his response is predictable:

Jesus Christ, Stick thought. Warren Oates dead, you bonehead, could play it better than Erik Estrada.

The novel is among Leonard’s best and has a nice bit of business about earning respect and crushed cowboy hats, which Stag O’Lee chroniclers should enjoy …