I’ve been lucky to meet many of the writers I’ve long admired and in some cases I’ve been even luckier to have become friends with some.
Back in the early eighties, before I’d published a novel, I was teaching a course at the university in mystery writing. One of the books I used in that course was written by Elmore Leonard. When the course was finished, I wrote Mr. Leonard a letter describing the course I’d taught and letting him know that his novel had been widely admired in the class and I added that “it stood up to literary inspection.” I went on to say that one of the literary devices we discussed at length in his novel was his use of “image patterns.” It was a fan letter, the only one I ever remember writing.
To my great surprise, I received a reply from Mr. Leonard thanking me for my note and expressing gratitude that my class had enjoyed his novel. He also said, “I probably wouldn’t do very well in your class because I have no idea what an image pattern is.”
A wonderful Leonardism. A funny putdown and a declaration of his blue collar literary aesthetic. I found out many years later that Elmore (who I came to know as “Dutch”) used my letter as one of several he referenced in his “Funny Letters I’ve Received Talk.” He told me that that letter always got a big laugh.
Several years after that exchange of correspondence, I’d finished my first novel Under Cover of Daylight and I asked my publisher to send a copy to Mr. Leonard to see if he would blurb it. To my surprise, he wrote a wonderful blurb for that novel which I believed played a decisive role in launching my career.
Eventually I discovered that Dutch was not unique in his generosity. So many novelists I’ve met in the last three decades have been generous to me and to other writers I know, giving them a helping hand as Dutch did, out of a sense of goodwill and a sort of brother or sister in arms philosophy. I’ve tried to do my share for other writers over the years, giving blurbs and advice (when asked) and sometimes helping writers make connection with agents or editors. It’s a kindness I learned early from Dutch.
This is Jim Crumley on the left. I spent a year with Jim at University of Texas, El Paso. Got colorful some stories from that year. In the middle is John Katzenbach, another writer who wrote a wonderful blurb for my first novel. John is a fantastic novelist and a great storyteller in person.
Starting on the the left: My good buddy of 4o years and a fantastic novelist and non-fiction writer, Les Standiford. (Last Train to Paradise, etc.) Kimberly Standiford, his wife and my good friend, an artist in her own right. Then my lovely wife, Evelyn, who is an award winning quilter and my first and best editor, and closest all-time friend. And on the far right is my buddy, Mitch Kaplan, the mastermind of the fantastic Miami bookstore, Books and Books, as well as the man who truly put Miami on the literary map with the Miami Book Fair (and so many other contributions to the book world of Florida I can’t list them all here.)