Elmore Leonard and The Tall T (part 2)

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LaBrava (1983) begins Elmore Leonard’s evermore excessive referencing of Hollywood movies and the use of narrative devices that depend on a merging of the real and the reel that had its greatest success with Get Shorty (1991). Here, a middle-aged retired Hollywood star who specialised in femme fatales replays one of her old movies . . . Robert Mitchum is endlessly referred to, but it is talk of Henry Silva who jogs another movie memory:

“I know Henry Silva was the bad guy,” LaBrava said. “I remember him because he was in a Western just about the same time and I saw it again in Independence. The Tall T, with Richard Boone and, what’s his name, Randolph Scott.”

Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins

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Final Episode of  Justified

Final Episode of Justified

Watching Justified as each new season appeared like an evermore welcome spring I’d forgotten that Higgins’ novel had been used earlier by Raylan to explain things to some low-life, so when the book got bandied about in the final episode I thought it was some more or less random Tarantino-esque homage. But Stray Bullets blogspot has persuaded me it was anything but:

The Friends of Eddie Coyle had long been cited by Leonard as the book that inspired him to stop writing westerns and to try his hand at crime fiction. It was a book that changed his life.

In 2000, Leonard wrote: “What I learned from George Higgins was to relax, not be so rigid in trying to make the prose sound like writing, to be more aware of the rhythms of coarse speech and the use of obscenities. Most of all … hook the reader right away.”

Leonard had also said of Higgins: "He saw himself as the Charles Dickens of crime in Boston instead of a crime writer. He just understood the human condition and he understood it most vividly in the language and actions among low lives.”

Raylan closes the book and gives it to Tim. As with so much of Leonard, it’s an understated, almost disposable gesture freighted with unspoken emotion. It’s heartfelt, but neither Raylan or Tim act like it means much of anything at all. It's just a beat-up old paperback, right?

As Raylan walks out of the office forever, in the background, (quite literally behind his back) Tim is approached by office irritant Nelson.

Nelson: You gonna read that book, Tim? 
Tim: No, Nelson, I’m gonna eat it. 
Nelson: I read fast. Have it back to you tomorrow. 
Tim: Keep talking, I’m gonna throw this stapler at you.

The tagline on the movie poster for the Peter Yates adaption of The Friends of Eddie Coyle could equally apply to Justified if you substitute the word "Eddie" for "Raylan": “It’s a grubby, violent, dangerous world. But it’s the only world they know. And they’re the only friends Eddie has.”

Elmore Leonard and Will Rogers

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… this federal lawman from Oklahoma who believed Will Rogers was the greatest American who ever lived because there wasn’t anyone as American as Will Rogers. He was funny and dead-on accurate when he took shots at the government, and he was always a cowboy. Carl said, “You could tell he was the real thing by the hundred-foot reata he carried around, could do tricks with, throwing his loop over whatever you pointed to and never had to untangle it. Jurgen was thinking that if he ever saw Carl Webster again, even if Carl had him handcuffed, he’d ask him how one became a cowboy.

Elmore Leonard, Up in Honey’s Room (2007)

Warren Oates and Elmore Leonard

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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 …