Blogging A to Z Day 6: Elmore Leonard


Even if you’ve never heard of Elmore Leonard, you’ve probably seen a movie or TV show inspired by his work. His short story “Fire in the Hole” inspired the tv show with the best theme music ever. (One of the reasons I picked Elmore for E was so I could work this video into one more post before Justified ends.)

Also written by Leonard and adapted for the screen: 3:10 to Yuma, Last Stand at Saber River, Valdez is Coming, Jackie Brown, and Get Shorty, to name but few. He was born in New Orleans in 1925 and his family moved to Detroit in 1934. He started writing pulp westerns in the 1950s and moved into crime fiction in the late 60s.

His writing is distinctive for its minimalist style, realism laced with dark humor, and sparkling dialogue. He’s one of the few writers I’ve ever encountered who could give me 160 pages and convince me by the end that I’d just read a novel. He died in 2013, having written 47 novels.

I find him inspiring because he started his career in the 50s and didn’t really break out until 1985. That’s a lot of persistence right there, though he did have some early successes to keep him going. Also inspiring: he believed in helping other writers along. Here are his ten rules of writing, from a book with the same title he published in 2007.

Leonard originally published these rules July 16, 2001, in the Arts section of the New York Times. You can read the original article, with his discussion of each of the rules, here.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
  4. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  9. Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The most important rule, that sums them up: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”

For more book blogging, see our Books and Lists categories. Or you could take your chances with a random post from our extremely diverse archives. For an awesome writing blog, try Write On! Sisters. They are also doing the A to Z thing.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite TV Shows

The good folks at The Broke and the Bookish have a weekly meme post called Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic is favorite movies or TV shows. So here are ten TV series I’ve seen every episode of. These may be the only ten shows I’ve seen the entire run of. I go through phases where I watch very little television, and it was tough to come up with ten of these.


1. The X Files (1993-2002). Possibly my favorite television show ever, and notable for its long run. I watched it religiously back in the day, but it makes this list because my wife and I watched every episode in syndication the first few years we were married. My favorite episode is the one where we see that the Smoking Man had a hand in the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are awesome, of course. Mitch Pileggi is just as good, and this is the first show I remember seeing him in.

2. The Shield (2002-2008). This one is a close second for “best ever” in my mind. I can’t think of a better police drama. The cast is stellar, the writing is good, and the camera work was exceptional for a basic-cable original series at the time. The best part about it: it put Walton Goggins on the map. It’s one of those rare shows that manages to pull off an anti-climactic, unsatisfying ending but still gives the characters exactly what they deserve.

3. Copper (2012-). A BBC show about New York policemen in the Five Points during the decade after the Civil War. New York’s never looked so much like London on the screen. This is one of my favorite currently-running shows. I’ve never regretted following it for one minute, and I am eager to see how it ends.

4. Justified (2010 – ). Another gem, this one an Elmore Leonard story translated into 5 seasons of awesome television. Set in Harlan County, Kentucky, it’s all about the relationship between U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens and his childhood frenemy Boyd Crowder, a cunning and thoroughly ruthless professional criminal. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are phenomenal together. The acting and the dialogue are so good, it’s easy to forgive the uneven quality of the long story arcs from season to season. And it has a theme by Gangstagrass:

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That song on Justified

I love this song. Just finished the latest season of Justified, and I don’t see why it got “disappointing” reviews. Also watched the premiere of Game of Thrones last night, and as always, I came away wishing the episode had been an hour longer. Now, if only I could find time to catch up on The Walking Dead, Vikings, The Americans, and whatever BBC America has been airing over the last couple of months. It’s kind of ironic. Here we have a pop culture blog, and I’m less in-tune with the pop culture than I was when I started it.

This is what I’ll be watching tomorrow night.

I haven’t been getting my television fix since Boardwalk Empire ended its season, so I am glad Justified is coming back. I may blog about it a bit; it’s one of my favorite shows.

I wrote it off as a villain-of-the-week melodrama that trades on stereotypes of the American South after the first three episodes, and boy was I wrong about it. I think the show really hit its stride about halfway through season 2, and it’s only gotten better since then. It is frequently funny, relationship-driven, and well acted.

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