Friday, August 23, 2013

Who are the successors to Elmore Leonard's crown?

Now that the King of Crime is gone Jake Kerridge selects five hard-boiled US crime writers to succeed him.

Inspiring: Elmore Leonard
Inspiring: Elmore Leonard Photo: Rex Features
In Elmore Leonard's 1990 novel Get Shorty – a book that ought to come high on any discerning reader's list of the best American novels of the 20th Century – there is a scene in which the producer Harry Zimm rejects a movie pitch thus: "You know why it doesn't work? ... There's nobody to sympathise with. Who's the good guy? You don't have one."
"Dutch" Leonard's novels often didn't have one either. In this scene he is guying the prescriptive attitude to crime fiction and drama that, more than any other writer of his generation, he strove to overturn. He did away with conventional heroes and made his readers sympathise with low-lifes and whores, investing the dumbest hooligans with an eloquence that made their stupidity as quotably aphoristic as anybody else's wisdom. He also made it acceptable to do away with the mystery element of crime fiction and eschewed minutely detailed plots. "I make it up as I go along. I enjoy writing because I want to find out what's gonna happen," he told me in 2011.

His characters will delight readers for decades to come and his influence is enormous – could any Tarantino film, not just Jackie Brown, have come into existence without Leonard? – and continues to live on through the generation of crime novelists that followed him. I present here a list of the best of those American writers who, in my view, are keeping the Dutch flag flying. 

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