"I wanted to sell my books to Hollywood," Elmore Leonard says. "I wanted to make money doing this." (PATRICIA BECK/Detroit Free
Elmore Leonard's crime books fit naturally on film
By CHRISTOPHER WALTON
FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER
In his famous set of self-imposed commandments known throughout the literary world as "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing," the rule-maker himself writes, "These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story."
"My most important rule," he adds, "is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
A curious practice from an author who, at 85, has produced 44 novels in 60 years of writing and is adored both by readers (worldwide sales are estimated to be in the tens of millions) and critics, who routinely employ such superlatives as -- to cite just one example from the New York Times Book Review -- "The greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever."
Leonard's ruthless commitment to invisibility of self seems to allow for greater focus on developing what has become his literary trademark: roguish characters who speak in dialogue that somehow sounds authentic and poetic at the same time.
But if his counterintuitive approach to writing offers insight as to why his books are so successful and entertaining, the question remains: Why are his books so attractive to Hollywood filmmakers? The answer very well might be, see above.
Twenty-one feature films have been based on Leonard's books, many of them big-budget productions attached to big-name stars including Burt Lancaster, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and John Travolta.
As tribute to his work in both fiction and film, Leonard will be honored this week at the Elmore Leonard Literary Arts and Film Festival, a fund-raiser for the Community House in Birmingham, where Leonard lived for much of the '60s and '70s before moving to Bloomfield Village.
The Free Press visited Leonard at his home to ask about the writing of books, the making of movies and what it's like to have a foot profitably planted in each of those often-antagonistic worlds.
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