According to one of the cover blurbs on one of the books I read this weekend, Elmore Leonard is "the best American writer of crime fiction alive." (Newsweek)
Now, I'm not an extreme mystery buff, but I'm willing to get behind that assessment. Robert B. Parker is not very demanding and is generally at least reasonably amusing, and Ross Thomas is dead, and Donald Westlake...well, he's pretty damn good, but I only read his Dortmunder books, for the most part, so I can't speak to the rest of his body of work. Elmore Leonard, though, rocks the house...everything one reads from him is a pretty good, pretty smart, pretty evil and pretty charming book. All of which is good for crime fiction.
Apparently, Leonard started out writing westerns. That little fact actually cracks me up...at some point I'll have to read one or two of those. But anyway. The first of the two books I read this weekend was Leonard's The Big Bounce, copyright 1969. It was, as near as I can tell, his first crime novel (as opposed to a western, which often involves crime but also six-shooters and horses, which this one does not). And frankly, it's not that good a book. The writing is fine and the plotting is interesting, but it's not the work of the master. It's more of an early journeyman piece.
Here's the thing, though. It was made into a movie. Twice. Once in 1969, and again in 2004. And I find myself wondering, "Why?" Okay, I can get the movie the same year it was published. But who in their right mind would pick it up again? Apparently both movies sucked, too, though for different reasons. I dunno. I'm just puzzled. Maybe when I get to the point where my stories become novels, and my novels begin to rate movie deals, I will understand better. I hope that happens, and of course not just for the understanding. But it does make me scratch my head a bit.
I dunno. Go figure.