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Elmore Leonard's Criminal Records.

Mild-mannered, grey-haired, and soft-spoken, Elmore "Dutch" Leonard is hardly the type one would associate with hard-boiled criminals and sociopaths. Yet, he arguably is the leading practitioner of crime fiction in the U.S., each book soaring to the hardcover and paperback best seller lists as fast as he turns them out. (Pounding on a manual typewriter, editing the old-fashioned way with a red pencil, and disdaining computers and word processors, Leonard takes about four months to produce a new novel, then spends the rest of the year relaxing and researching his future projects.)

When the market for westerns dried up, Leonard, who had churned out dozens in the 1950s, including such movie hits as "Hud" and "3:10 to Yuma," asked his agent what sort of writing paid best. "Ransom notes," was the laconic reply, which Leonard took to heart when he plotted the kidnap caper, "52 Pickup."

For those fascinated with how an author works, this video is as instructive as it is entertaining. Viewers watch Leonard talking to police officers, probation officials, judges, bail bondsmen, and lawyers and observing them on the job so as to get the feel for how they function. Most important, he listens carefully to the way they talk, especially to the petty crooks and hardened criminals they deal with, ensuring that Leonard's dialogue rings true when he puts it on a page. A clever touch is having these law enforcement officers read appropriate passages from Leonard's books that reflect what he learned from the interviews and observations.

Dutch Leonard clearly refutes the old adage, "Crime doesn't pay."
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Rothenberg, Robert S.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:264
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