Elmore and Me

20 Aug

Today is a sad day. Elmore Leonard left us. A true icon in the western and crime genres. I learned something, usually many somethings, from each of his books—and I think I’ve read them all.





Many years ago I meet Elmore in Maui and had the opportunity to sit and talk with him at length. Still one of my best memories of the old Maui Writers Conference. One of the things we talked about was character development. I asked him how he created his wonderfully complex and unique characters, asking if he did sketches or character outlines or anything thing like that. He said he took weeks, sometimes months, coming with a name and that once he had the name he knew the character. The simple beauty of this is what he was all about.

I mean Chili Palmer could not be president or a neurosurgeon–he could only be a loan shark. Linda Moon must be a lounge singer; Ray “Bones” Barboni a made man; Dale Crow, Junior a criminal; and Rayland Givens a lawman. Much is in the name and in his hands it was so very true.

I still can’t get my head around the fact that there will be no more wonderful stories from this icon and fear for the future of JUSTIFIED—a show with his fingerprints all over it.




Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Writing


14 responses to “Elmore and Me

  1. Jodie Renner

    August 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Doug. This biographical personal anecdote has brought me closer to Elmore Leonard, whom I never had the privilege of meeting.

    And it really is a good tip, too, to pay close attention to the names you give your characters.

    Thanks again for sharing this with us.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      August 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      He had so much practical wisdom to offer–this one little slice.


  2. Susan Elizabeth

    August 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    How wonderful that you had the chance to meet such an inspiring man. Today is definitely a sad day.


  3. Lee Lofland

    August 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I just finished reading “Raylan” a couple of days ago. And now it makes me sad that I’ve turned the last page on what was Leonard’s last completed book.


  4. Andrew Pierce

    August 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the story, Doug. As for Justified, he stated in numerous interviews how happy he was with the writing and the cast. I’ve not kept up with recent episodes, but was impressed early on how well they nailed his unique sense of character – rhythms, attitude, speech. At least there, I think, his legacy is in good hands.


  5. Steven Kerry Brown

    August 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I wondered about Justified too. But it looks like maybe his “daughter” was one of the producers. So maybe it will continue.


  6. Lisa Riley Emig

    August 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    A wonderful memory – thank you for sharing it. Mr. Leonard will be truly missed – he was an original in every sense.


  7. Maggie King

    August 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Yes, he was an icon and will be sorely missed.


  8. Julie Kramer

    August 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I’m envious that you were able to meet him and have such a memorable conversation. I know him only through his writing.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      August 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Julie—I actually had a chance to sit and chat with him one on one twice during that week—each time fro around 45 minutes. He was a gracious and kind man with a very sharp mind. His insights on storytelling were amazing.


  9. Brenda

    August 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! It is so sad that there will be no more of his stories! I’m glad I haven’t finished them all yet. Glad you met him and had that nice conversation!


  10. Susan Elizabeth

    August 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    The Hollywood Reporter did a piece on Justified where Elmore Leonard says that the show’s writers have made the characters better than he ever could.


  11. Warren M Tang

    September 5, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for sharing the news.

    Leonard Elmore would not have been a friend of Cratylus. We name our children and they grow into their name. Characters once named do the same, I guess. Enlightening.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: