Elmore Leonard's cool, spare dialogue
I'd tried just once before to read a Leonard novel, and I marveled at a lengthy scene built entirely of dialogue: no descriptions, no tags or attributions, no reactions. It was a virtuoso piece of writing, but a bit wearying to read. Be Cool contains similar, if shorter, scenes, and for me, they worked. My favorite example:
"Hi, I'm Tiffany? I love your movies. Tommy said I could be in the one you're gonna do about him? Only I guess you won't do it now."Odds are you've read similar snippets of dialogue in which a character, usually female, ends her statements with a rising intonation that makes questions of them. Usually the author will have the narrator remark on this. But Leonard, avoiding any such commentary, let me hear that voice. And I hear it vividly.
I can also well understand why Detectives Beyond Borders favorites Declan Burke and John McFetridge revere Leonard. Like their novels, this one is less a straightforward crime story than a kind of adventure or odyssey along which the protagonist or protagonists encounter and maybe commit crimes. I'm betting they've both read this book.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009
Labels: Elmore Leonard