by Timothy Lusch
Made In Detroit
The Fiction Of Elmore Leonard
Leonard, a native of the South who ultimately spent his formative and adult years in the Detroit area, is well-known for capturing the dialogue and conversational oddities of a given place. This is true in his Westerns and crime novels, such as The Moonshine War, set almost entirely in other regions. But it was Detroit, writing in and about, that he was at his best. Reading his books, feels like eavesdropping on a conversation at the Lafayette Coney Island. He was known for spending hours at the courthouse in Detroit picking up language and story ideas. Leonard exceeded the inspiration and parroting dialogue he gathered as an observer. His characters have soul, and it makes even the ugliest sympathetic. In the quote below, a piece he wrote for the Chicago Tribune back in the 80’s, Leonard gets to the heart of Detroit, and to the people that are the heart of the city.
“There are cities that get by on their good looks, offer climate and scenery, views of mountains or oceans, rockbound or with palm trees; and there are cities like Detroit that have to work for a living, whose reason for being might be geographical but whose growth is based on industry, jobs.”