Is it just me, or is Elmore Leonard lousy?

While shopping at my friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart, I came upon a table full of books at very low prices. I was about to pick up a copy of an autobiography by Arthur Miller when I spotted a couple of hardcover Elmore Leonard books for only $3.94 each. One is titled Dr. Paradise, the other is When the Women Came Out to Dance, which is a collection of short stories. I bought them mainly because I was familiar with Leonard’s name, probably from Get Shorty.

I started with Dr. Paradise, and could hardly make it through the first chapter. I don’t know if all his books are written in the same style, but his phrasing, punctuation, and sentence structure were absolutely driving me nuts.

Now clearly this guy has a very successful career so I’m wondering where the disconnect lies. Can anyone provide some insight on this before I return the books?

Many thanks.

I do not enjoy his work, or at least, not the things I have read, so it is not you. I have not read anything by him in many many years, so I can’t even remember much about what I did read. I do remember that I didn’t like him well enough to read the rest of his stuff.

I liked the first book I read by him. I didn’t like it so much the next four times I read it packaged as an allegedly different book.

I’ve read quite a few of his works, and while they tend to be of a similar vein (seedy people living in either Miami or Detroit), I find them very interesting, especially on a summer day at the pool. I highly recommend Get Shorty, Cuba Libre, Maximum Bob, and Out of Sight. But then again, Elmore Leonard is no Carl Hiaasen.

Really - no love for Dutch? He is brilliant - period. He has gone through thin periods - absolutely. But have ya read 52 Pickup? Swag? Unknown Man No. 89? City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit?

The Man clearly understands something about human nature. His ability to take standard street talk and amplify it in just the right way to make it work on a printed page is unparalleled. Seriously.

Meh. I read a few of his books after a friend went on and on about how he wrote the best, most “natural” dialogue, how he was the very apex of modern literature, and someone to be learned from.

Maybe my expectations were too high, and I might have enjoyed his stuff if it was set up for me as tongue-in-cheek pulp, but eesh…

What crap.

I like Elmore Leonard. I can’t say I’ve ever really lingered over his prose but I enjoyed most of his non-cowboy stuff. I guess I think of him as one of the drugstore novel standbys.

Well, it looks like he’s one of those guys you either love or don’t care for at all. I guess I’ll go ahead and make myself read the book. Maybe I’ll adjust and get into it after all.

Thanks everyone for your replies and for your book recommendations. I’ll keep an eye out for some of the ones you suggest at a discount price, and if I can find any I’ll give them a try as I wouldn’t want to pay $25 a book unless I were to become a big fan.

I’ve read a few of Elmore Leonard’s books.

He’s OK. I’ve definitely read worse.

But he’s no Lawrence Sanders or Donald Westlake. I’d equate him to Robert Ludlum (in a different genre). Good but not great at what he does, flashes of excellence but serious shortcomings. Formulaic. He excels at creating the feel his characters world. But his dialog always seemed a little stilted to me and this plotting is predictable.

As a novelist, he makes a very good screenwriter.

Out of Sight has been the only one of his that I’ve been able to finish. His style does tend to set me on edge when I’m reading his books, so I usually just toss them a quarter of the way through.

I’ve had the same reaction to BOTH writers. As RickJay said, you get the same book every damn time.

I quit reading Dutch after Freaky Deaky (late '80s) and Hiaasen after Strip Tease (early ‘90s). Enjoyed both novels, but felt no real urge to read the fuckin’ book over again.

You want REAL crime writing, with sass and verve, try the late, lamented Ross Thomas. “What Leonard does for crime in the streets, Thomas does for crime in the suites.” – Village Voice.