One of my favorite authors is Elmore Leonard. If you are looking for an entertaining read that places you right into the story without distraction, an Elmore Leonard novel is for you. He generally writes crime stories, several of which have become movies (e.g., Get Shorty, Rum Punch [the 1997 film, Jackie Brown]).
I recently picked up a copy of his latest novel, Up in Honey’s Room (Buy Now: Amazon.ca; Amazon.com), at an airport bookstore (where I often buy my Leonard books). This particular story takes place in war time America, and centers on a U.S. Marshal’s hunt for two escaped German prisoners-of-war. Of course, the story is more complicated than that as the marshal has to work and negotiate with the beautiful former wife of a German loyalist, the latter who may be involved in hiding the POWs. It’s an entertaining page turner that keeps you guessing right up to the end.
For me as a writer and author of fiction, Leonard’s books are not only entertaining but instructive. What I like about his writing style is how quickly he gets you into the story. There’s no distracting descriptions of scenes or characters to take the reader off track. Instead, the necessary descriptions are blended into or in support of the dialog, all in advancement of the plot. Indeed, I believe Leonard set the style for modern popular writing–that is (in my humble evaluation) “It’s the story, stupid!”
In his popular New York Times essay (2001) on the Ten Rules of Writing, he stated: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” In other words, the reader should not be reminded that he is reading and not actually experiencing the story that is being told. If you achieve that, as Leonard does, you have come a long way as a writer.
So, what’s wrong with that?