Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reading Journal: Tishomingo Blues, by Elmore Leonard (2002)

A hilarious conceit from the pulp master: the Dixie Mafia. And the story's protagonist, a high diver at the casino in Tishomingo, Mississippi, witnesses one of their hits at the beginning of the book and spends the rest of it working his way out of trouble, with the help of some memorable no-goodniks, who are of course equal parts good ol' boys. The over-arching metaphor is a simple piece of genius, especially as the plot thickens, and much like trying to hit a pool that from atop the ladder looks as big as a quarter, our hero eventually finds himself with one harrowing play left. It's my first Leonard, and what they say is true: it must be about 80 per cent dialogue. He's indeed devoted to his 10 Rules of Writing, in which he quotes from Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks." It's almost a challenge to remember who's who, given the quick and scant descriptions he uses, but he's a truly self-effacing narrator, and he lets the characters give the reader the most important details, never in a heavy-handed way. Great fun.

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