The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard
The Armchair Detective Library (March, 1989)
Introduction by Elmore Leonard
The first time THE BIG BOUNCE was offered to publishers and film producers, in the fall of 1966, it was rejected eighty-four times within a period of three months. They said the writing was okay, the author showed promise, but none of the characters was worth caring about and the ending was a downer.
This was not encouraging. The unanimous negative reaction of eighty-four professionals would suggest that I hide the manuscript away, maybe even throw it away, and move on to something with a more commercial ring to it, at least more easily recognized good guys and bad guys.
But I didn’t. And you will never know how glad I am that I didn’t. I read the manuscript again while it was collecting rejections and realized that what it needed was not a different attitude, or a more recognizable cast of characters. It needed a plot. It needed a promise that something eventually was going to happen.
Up until this time I had been writing only westerns, having chosen the genre as a good place to concentrate my efforts and learn how to write. There was a wide-open magazine market for westerns in the Fifties. You could aim at THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, COLLIER’S, ARGOSY, all paying top rates, as much as a thousand dollars or more for a short; and if you failed to hit the slicks you could try ADVENTURE, BLUEBOOK, or at least a half-dozen pulp magazines, like DIME WESTERN and ZANE GREY’S WESTERN, who were paying two cents a word, a hundred bucks for a short. You could do pretty well if you wrote fast. But I think my main reason for choosing westerns as a place to begin was because I loved western movies. I developed a style of writing scenes, dialogue moving the story, with movie sales in mind.