Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: mysteries

A look back at Elmore Leonard,          America’s best crime writer?

Elmore Leonard’s death last year sparked a wave of, not only glowing obituaries, but retrospective articles on his large body of work.  When he died in August, he was working on his 46th novel.  If you’re not familiar with him, several recent articles in print and online provide a good introduction and suggestions for reading (and viewing) Leonard’s work.

Identified as a crime writer–and before that a writer of westerns–Leonard transcended genres, some reviewers say, raising his literary esteem several notches.

“Many critics argued that, if anything, the reference to the genre slighted his contributions,” says Christopher Orr in the current issue of The Atlantic.  “Martin Amis described him as ‘a literary genius’ and ‘the nearest America has to a national writer,’” says Orr.

Born in New Orleans, Leonard and his family moved to Detroit where he went to school and graduated from the University of Detroit with a degree in English and philosophy.  From there he became an advertising copywriter until his novels started to pay off.  He began writing westerns, but as the popularity of that genre faded in the late 1960s, he switched to crime, the territory for which he’s best known.Elmore Leonard

Sidestepping the crime novels, a New York Times Magazine article at the end 2013 focused on the westerns.   Had the market for westerns not dried up, writes Charles McGrath, Leonard might have continued with them for the rest of his career.

“Leonard’s westerns are not just good for their kind.  They’re good, period: spare, taut, soundly constructed,” says McGrath.

“Leonard’s goal, unlike that of so many self-consciously literary young men back then, was not The New Yorker but The Saturday Evening Post, which paid better and was read by more people,” McGrath writes.  “He cracked it only once, in April 1956, with a story called Moment of Vengeance.”

Many of Leonard’s stories and novels, including the westerns, became motion pictures, but, says Orr in The Atlantic, many of the movies were bad.

“If the sheer number of Leonard adaptations is remarkable, what is more remarkable still is how few of them are any good,” he says.

In his seemingly overly critical analysis, Orr says that the early movie adaptations of his–“3:10 to Yuma,” “The Tall T,” “Hombre”–were successful but that when Leonard turned to crime writing, “studios lost their knack for translating him to the screen.”

More than two dozen movies were based on Leonard’s books.  They provide plenty of raw material for criticism.  Orr praises the successful “Get Shorty” as one of the best and its sequel, “Be Cool,” as one of the failures.

“Get Shorty” is surely one of his most popular and critically acclaimed novels, not a bad place to start reading. For other suggestions, two recent online articles, one in the Huffington Post and another on Litreactor.com, list Leonard’s “ten best.”  Eight of his books, including “Get Shorty,” “52 Pickup” and “Killshot” appear on both lists.

Hyperlinks:

The Elmore Leonard Paradox by Christopher Orr   The Atlantic  

 Leonard obit by Charles McGrath in New York Times Magazine

 Huff Post picks ten best Leonard novels

 Mini reviews of 10 best Leonard novels in Litreactor.com  

Flash mystery for the holidays

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful new year.  “Santa” gets in trouble in my Christmas flash fiction offering.

 Christmas Bracelets

Trays of expensive necklaces were scattered across the mall jewelry store counter.  A heavy-set man with a white beard and red suit slumped next to the policeman.

“D’you know how many stupid crooks try to rob stores dressed as Santa this time of year?” said the slightly bored detective.

Outside the store, a crowd gathered.

“Take him in,” said the detective to two uniformed officers.

“Don’t put cuffs on me,” said make-believe Santa. “Look at all those kids out there.”

The detective frowned.

“Police escort,” shouted unshackled Santa.  As they walked out, he waved to the crowd with both hands.

A sample of deadly holiday gifts

Santa’s helpers, a sugar plum fairy, cozy carolers and children at the fireside are the usual cast of characters for holiday scenes.  But for any mystery fan, a lurking shadow is all that’s needed for an enjoyable winter read.  Here are some Christmastime homicides.

A Christmas Tragedy

by Agatha Christie

This “Kindle short” story finds Miss Marple at a resort wondering if a man is about to murder his wife.

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

Edited by Otto Penzler

Sixty holiday-themed crime short stories by such authors as Sara Paretsky, Ed McBain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, John D. MacDonald and John Mortimer.

A Christmas Tragedy++

Christmas Is Murder

by C. S. Challinor

An English manor house in the country during the holidays, a blizzard and a body.

Christmas Carol Murder

by Leslie Meier

When the owner of a mortgage company who is profiting mightily from other’s misfortunes is found dead, suspects abound.

The Christmas Secret

by Anne Perry

Unsavory secrets swirl around an English village vicar during the holidays.

Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel

by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann

Parker’s longtime agent, Brann, completed this unfinished manuscript.  Spenser helps the operator of an unlicensed shelter who has been receiving threats.

Parker's Silent Night

Murder She Wrote: Murder Never Takes a Holiday

by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Two holiday-themed mysteries, “Manhattans & Murder”and “A Little Yuletide Murder,” are combined in one volume.

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