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Film and TV

Moment of Vengeance
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52 Pickup
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Life of Crime

Road Dogs Tour - Free Library of Philadelphia (Podcast) 05/14/09



Andy Kahan, Dee Dee Debartlo and Elmore. (Photo credit: Andy Kahan.)

Event podcast LISTEN HERE.

by Frank Wilson

Frank is former Book Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Dutch’s introducer at The Free Library event.

imageIf you saw the recent remake of the classic Glenn Ford-Van Heflin flick 3:10 to Yuma and couldn’t figure out what happened at the end, you’re not alone. Neither could Elmore Leonard, and he wrote the story both films are based on.

Leonard was his usual cool wry self Thursday night at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Library. He read, of course, from his latest, Road Dogs, but also did something writers rarely do: He talked about the one he’s working on, which is set in Djibouti and has to do with those Indian Ocean pirates who keep making headlines. “I can’t wait to get back to it,” Leonard said.

Writing, for Dutch Leonard, doesn’t involve any sort of existential torment. He enjoys it. “Best job in the world,” he said. As he told one audience member who asked for some practical advice on a writing career, “The primary satisfaction comes from the writing itself, from finishing a scene and saying to yourself, ‘Hey, I like that. It’s good’ ”

But Leonard also made it clear that years of work went into his own career. He told how, when he was working in advertising, he would get up every morning at 5 and write for two hours before getting ready to go to work. “I could finish two pages. I didn’t know any better.”

Road Dogs brings together some characters from earlier Leonard books, notably bank robber Jack Foley from Out of Sight and Cuban hustler Cundo Rey from LaBrava. Leonard said that Rey posed a bit of a problem at first. “I had to make sure he was still alive.”

At the end of LaBrava Rey is shot three times. “But there’s no indication that he died,” Leonard said. Seems he was taken to a hospital and spent 60 days in a coma (mostly a put on: he’s really sizing up his situation).

Leonard talks about his characters as if they were friends or colleagues. “I like my characters. I even like the bad guys.”
What he tries to do, he said, is get across what it is that’s human about them. “A guy wakes up in the morning and he’s going to rob a bank. And the first thing he does is wonder what he’s going to wear. That makes him human.”

And here’s a blog post by writer Duane Swierczynski: