AMERICAN ENTERTAINMENT PAYS its tributes in dollars. It has award ceremonies but we know that Oscars lead to box office, Grammys move units and Tonies put bums on seats. Elmore Leonard has received the tributes of the industry, many times over, but other types of fame have eluded him. Personal wealth is his, and so is broad acclaim, but the respect of the academy is slow in coming forward for a man who has hidden some of the best point-of-view writing of the late 20th century between the covers of the popular crime novel. The varied attempts to sing his praises in the serious press make for pleasant reading.
There is no doubting the success that Elmore Leonard has achieved. There was a week in April 1985 when his face was on the cover of Newsweek.[i] Had it been me, I would have travelled that week. I would have taken a big fast rental and zoomed across the country and at every newsstand, in every airport, train and bus station, in every shopping mall, in every college town, in every newsagency by every factory, in every dusty town barbershop, everywhere, there would have been, just for me, a mirror, at least one, normally more, that told me not that I was the fairest in all the land but I was the one they were talking about. In that week, most of America, the ones who read Newsweek and the ones who only looked at it, and those who did the same all around the world, were thinking or just considering that Elmore Leonard was the hottest novelist on the planet. Now that’s what a scribbler can call fame.
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