Majestyk . . .
. . . stepped into him as he brought the shotgun up, grabbing the barrel with his left hand, and drove his right fist hard into Bobby Kopas's face, getting some nose and mouth, staying with him as Kopas went back against the car door, and slammed the fist into him again, getting his sunglasses this time, wiping them from his face, and pulling the shotgun out of his hands as Kopas twisted and his head and shoulders fell into the window opening."Mr. Majestyk," the first Elmore Leonard novel I ever read, was commended to my attention long ago by The Oldtimer. Despite having written 42 others, Leonard says:
"I never had a really brilliant idea," he is saying, coming back into the room. His name is Elmore, but people call him by his high school nickname. "A really great story idea that keeps readers turning the pages. And I just never had one. I always came up with stuff that I'd say, 'Oh, I guess I could make a book about that.' "And he's quite right. His stories don't turn on big ideas or plot-gulping surprises. He reminds us of Carl Hiaasen (minus the bizarre) or, more apt for their realistic ambiguity, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee (minus Trav's introspection, of course).
Today the Washington Post does a long profile of Leonard, on the occasion of his receipt of some literary prize or other. If you don't know the world of Elmore Leonard, you should get to know it:
. . . his world is off-kilter America, primarily a vision of the lower end of the post-Vietnam era, when the margins got thin, the morals of the nation got cloudy, and irony became a survival mechanism. It's populated by cops who aren't exactly good, crooks who aren't exactly bad, and women who have an eye for the in-between. There is no judgment. Bad guys don't know they're bad. They brush their teeth and call their moms and then go rob a bank. Cynicism is on view, as is a vast detailing of bars, alcohol, prison cells, loan-sharking operations and gun runners. There is usually a lot of cash in a small container. People get shot. Self-confidence is a requirement. It's a place where getting dead isn't funny, but if this lounge singer shoots a would-be rapist and the bullet goes through him and hits her detective boyfriend right in the butt, well, you have to see the humor in the situation.