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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Get Shorty (1990) by Elmore Leonard

Book Review
Get Shorty (1990)
by Elmore Leonard

  Elmore Leonard is an interesting figure to use as a basis for discussing the yes or no canonical status of an author.  He clearly did not start out life as a canonical author- there was no burst of initial recognition and prize winning type plaudits.  Rather, he labored for years an average type genre writer- starting with Westerns, and graduating to Detective fiction.  He wasn't a stranger to Hollywood, either, with something like 10 movie versions of his books being released before the movie version of this book, Get Shorty, was released in 1995.   That was followed by well received versions of Jackie Brown (based on Rum Punch) and Out of Sight in 1997 and 1998.   In 2017, Leonard is firmly in canonical territory, with three separate Library of America compilations "Four Elmore Leonard Novels of the 1970's" etc.

  I think Leonard's canonical place was secured by those three films- the first of which was a commercial hit, and the last two were critical hits, with some commercial success, by notable directors.  I would argue that it is this book- Get Shorty, where Leonard delivers the blend of action, humor and philosophy that constitutes "classic" Elmore Leonard.  The humor and philosophy came later to his work- early books like City Primeval are short on anything except tough talk and hard living.

   The idea of doing a noir/detective novel about Hollywood was hardly original- by 1990 people were literally writing books about "Hollywood Noir," but the ability to blend humor into the mix clearly set  Leonard apart then, and continues to do so today.  Get Shorty the book (unlike the film) holds up 25 years later.

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