Esquire Piece:  Cutting Deals (1986)
Posted: 26 June 2008 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Cutting Deals by Elmore Leonard
A Man’s Word
Esquire (June 1986)

For most of the three months in a row I listened to conversations in a homicide squad at 1300 Beaubien, Detroit Police Headquarters; a KOJAK set with 243 mug shots on the wall.  I listened to true-crime tales delivered in deadpan, tones of voice that were professionally dry, casual, often cynical.  All but one.

“Guy on the phone says, ‘You want to know who did it?  I got a drunk-driving charge hanging on me.  Get it taken off my record and I’ll give you the name.’”

“I said to the garbage man.  ‘We understand you picked up a gun in the alley back of 3151 Sherbourne yesterday.’  Man frowns and squints like he’s trying to get his memory to work.  Says, ‘No, I didn’t see no gun..’  I said, ‘Well, the old man that lives there saw you or somebody pick it up.  You come on downtown, we’ll have a witness lineup.’  The garbage man says, ‘When you have to have this gun?’”

“Lady said earlier there was a party.  Everybody was out on the street doing this obscene dance, the freaky deaky. . . .  Same dance they were doing on Belle Isle when a guy was shot.  Man, I got to see this dance makes people kill each other.”

“Reg, you gonna be at your mother’s if we need you?”  Reg said, yeah, he’ll be there.  “If you stay out of the dope pads, get a job, like maybe a car wash. . .”

“Car wash.  Man, you don’t even make three an hour at a car wash.”

“That’s true.  You don’t get shot in the head, either.”

“Here’s a letter from a guy we sent to Marquette.  He’s worried about what we think of him.  Listen.  ‘I know there are a lot of ill feelings towards me . . . All there is left to say is God help all us fools.’”

“What are you taking my picture for?”

“We want to enter it in the Black Miss America contest.”

And I heard a homicide cop, talking to witness on the phone, begging the person to come forward and testify, say:

“I give you my word as a man.”

That’s the one I recall most clearing among all the voices in the squad room and will always remember.  A man giving his word to protect someone’s life, not as an official of the law of on a Bible or in any other context than simply “as a man.”

NOTE:  This is basically an edited version of IMPRESSIONS OF MURDER (1978).  It is a valuable piece of Elmore Leonard writing.

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Posted: 26 June 2008 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I wonder there is enough of Mr. L’s intros, odd-and-ins writing to publish in a special print book, like his “Writing” tome?

Along with his short stories maybe, like a reprint of “Women” with extras.

Like I answer when people ask me what’s up - “Never enough.”

Never enough of Mr. L. He’s probably the only writer I reread consistently.

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