Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Coolest Guy I Ever Met: A Look Back At The Late, Great Crime Novelist Elmore

While researching Mickey Spillane for my upcoming On Crime column for the Washington Times, I came across what the late, great crime novelist Elmore Leonard had to say about his fellow crime writer Mickey Spillane.

In a piece in TIME magazine after Spillane died in 2006, Elmore Leonard said, “I remember when I, The Jury, Mickey Spillane's first novel, came out in 1947. I was in college and had just come out of the service the summer before. Forceful and full of energy (it had to have been, since he wrote it in nine days), the book knocked me out.

“In 1995, as president of the Mystery Writers of America, I had the privilege of honoring Mickey with the title of Grand Master, despite some members' objections. Whether you liked him or not, he played a key role in the development of crime fiction — I'm not sure phrases like "Hot damn!" were ever popular before he used them, and shooting a girl in the navel in I, The Jury? That's as good as it gets.”

I met Elmore “Dutch” Leonard briefly in 2009 when he came to Philadelphia and spoke at the Philadelphia Free Library.  My friend and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Frank Wilson (seen in the photo below), gave a fine introduction for Leonard to the audience. 

As I wrote in my 2011 Crime Beat column about Elmore Leonard in Philadelphia Weekly, Leonard struck me as having the cool insouciance of an elderly jazz musician. He was as interesting, clever and amusing a speaker as he was a writer. 

You can read the Crime Beat column about Leonard below:  

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