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A Hard-Boiled Music

by Otto Penzler

Elmore Leonard’s contribution to literature

A beautiful jazz riff, one that had played irresistibly and profoundly for more than six decades, went silent on the morning of Tuesday, August 20. The thing that is all wrong about that is Elmore Leonard — okay, he was 87 — was meant to live forever. He will, in a way, because we all will be reading and rereading his brilliant and original mystery and crime fiction for the rest of our lives — even if you’re just a kid now. But it is nearly impossible to think that he, the physical person, won’t be around anymore.

I met him at my bookshop in New York in 1981 when his novel Split Images came out. I had been reading him for a while and been blown away by his previous book, City Primeval, so I called his publisher to ask if he would be touring and could we have him for a reading. It turned out that he had never done a bookshop event outside of his hometown, and the publicist was surprised to get a request.

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