Elmore Leonard's Characters Talk or Die

Writer Says Dialogue Is Key to Survival in His Novels

Elmore Leonard

hide captionElmore Leonard's first novel, The Bounty Hunters, was published in 1953.

Linda Solomon
'Mr. Paradise'

hide captionThe latest, Mr. Paradise, is Leonard's 38th novel.

READ AN EXCERPT

Elmore Leonard doesn't care to be characterized as a mystery writer. The author of Get Shorty, Maximum Bob and 52 Pickup, says he writes crime novels that delve into the bad-guy characters from the get-go rather than having them suddenly appear in the last act. NPR's Brian Naylor interviews the best-selling author on Weekend Edition Sunday.

This item is available for purchase online. Your purchase helps support NPR.

Anyone who's read Leonard's novels — or watched many of their big-screen adaptations — knows he has an ear for dialogue.

"From the very beginning, my purpose was to [let the characters talk]," Leonard says. "To first of all establish the characters, as many as possible in the first 100 pages and audition them. Let's see if they can talk. If they can't talk, they're liable to slip from view or get shot early on.

"If I have several bad guys, and I only want to end up with one of them, then I have to decide which one I want in the end. Normally, it's the one who's the most interesting talker."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: