I paid some attention when Elmore Leonard died, but the truth is that I'd never read any Elmore Leonard books. I toyed with the idea of ordering an Elmore Leonard book, but I hadn't pulled the trigger. But then I was tearing everything out of the bookcases in the room where we just redid the floors. My agenda is to get all our books onto the existing bookshelves, a process that's involved filling 8 shopping bags with books to be taken to Half Price Books for recycling.
And what the hell? I find an Elmore Leonard book. See:
Of all the Elmore Leonard books that somebody — not me — might have left in the house, I find "Bandits." This solves the problem of which Elmore Leonard book to order. I start reading "Bandits." I get about 15 pages in and I'm onto his game. Not saying it's not a good game. It is. Not putting down people who enjoy reading this kind of thing. I'm just saying it's not my kind of thing to read. If I had to write a novel — and I'm always getting ideas about novels that could be written — I'd get a bang out of writing like this. It's an easy way to fill out a lot of pages, even as you make your target readers feel that it's all very fast moving. I am not one of those target readers. For me, it's slow going.
What he's doing is: He has a story. Something that happened in the past. We're hearing 2 guys talk about whatever 2 guys would be talking about while doing whatever it is they're doing. In this case — in the case of "Bandits" — what they're doing is preparing a corpse for burial. So there's this whole sideline routine, telling us about some area of human expertise, which you could find out about in a couple minutes reading Wikipedia or stumbling onto an episode of "How It's Made." And as these guys talk, it slips out, every half page or so, some little dribble of information about whatever that thing was that happened in the past. You're supposed to care. What the hell happened? Who was this dead guy and who was that lady he was with and so forth. I'm just not the kind of person who cares.
A writer who wanted to take the trouble to write out descriptions of this and that might show us some event unfolding so we picture it, seemingly as it happened. But here, the thing already happened, and 2 guys are talking, while they're doing this other thing, which is an ordinary thing that's somewhat interesting to hear details about, preparing a corpse for burial. That's a great formula for having fun writing, and I know many readers find that fun to read. But I'm thinking: There's some damned thing that already happened, that could be told in a few sentences, and I'm supposed to hang out in this blather and catch the bits of the story as they float by. What's my motivation?