What Elmore Leonard book should I start with?
January 21, 2013 1:10 AM   Subscribe

Simple enough question. I've never read any Elmore Leonard, and think I will give him a whirl. Where should I start?
posted by Alaska Jack to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
52 Pickup
posted by pete_22 at 1:38 AM on January 21, 2013

Freaky Deaky.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:03 AM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: pete_22 and Sticherbeast:

Any particular reason for starting with those?

FWIW, Wikipedia says:

"Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk and Rum Punch."

So I was thinking about starting with one of those, but am definitely open to other guidance.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:11 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: Part of the reason why those books are so well known is that each of them was made into a successful movie (remember that Rum Punch was made into Jackie Brown). You could start with one of those, as well.

I'm a fan of Freaky Deaky as a starting point because it sits halfway between the earlier, somewhat darker Leonard crime novels and the later, somewhat more caper-y crime novels.

I've never read a bad Elmore Leonard novel, so I would say to start anywhere, really. I think the first of his that I read was Riding the Rap, about which I remember little except the fact that I really, really liked it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:38 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You haven't told us anything about your tastes, so we can't really do anything but offer you our favorites. If you love Louie L'Amour this question gets a different answer than if you prefer Lee Child, or Carl Hiassen.

That said, it's hard to go wrong with Mr. Majestyk.
posted by nicwolff at 5:04 AM on January 21, 2013

Hombre or Valdez Is Coming. His westerns are often overlooked.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:04 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: My favorite is Tishomingo Blues, which has not been made into a movie yet. Freaky Deaky has a first chapter which is particularly well-written (not that the whole book isn't good, but the first chapter is special). Mr. Paradise is fun, and there's an audiobook version that is beautifully read by Robert Forster. And, to give the westerns their due, you might want to check out the short story "Three-ten to Yuma."
posted by ubiquity at 5:23 AM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: nicwolff, my tastes are very open. I've read a lot, but it's all been classics (Twain, Dickens, Stevenson, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, etc. etc.) or classic sci-fi/fantasy writers (Asimov, Bradbury, Wells, Herbert, Tolkien, Lewis, etc.). I've hardly read any contemporary literature -- McCarthy's The Road is the only thing that springs to mind.

So really, if Leonard uses the same characters in multiple books, I just want to avoid accidently reading Book 2, and being confused, because I didn't realize that part of Book 2 only makes sense if you've read Book 1 first.
posted by Alaska Jack at 5:39 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: I like SWAG. It is more carefully and tightly structured than many of Leonard's novels; many of them seem to have issues with wandering or unresolved plotlines. And of course it exemplifies his many virtues, including unforgettable characters, great dialogue, and a keen sense of the absurd.
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:01 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: The A.V. Club did one of their 'Gateways to Geekery' articles on Leonard. They recommend starting with Out of Sight.
posted by colbeagle at 7:02 AM on January 21, 2013

I second "Out of Sight". I read that book right before seeing the movie. I also recommend Get Shorty. Both are among his most enjoyable works.
posted by reenum at 7:34 AM on January 21, 2013

Seconding Swag.
posted by box at 7:59 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I loved Freaky Deaky and I see it too was made into a movie recently!
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 8:41 AM on January 21, 2013

I really enjoyed Get Shorty.
posted by drezdn at 9:38 AM on January 21, 2013

I think Sticherbeast has it about right. I prefer the darker early stuff and that's what 52 Pickup is. However, my favorite of the movie books you mentioned is (the later) Rum Punch. Swag is also great. Nothing I've read by him is bad. Haven't read the Westerns so I can't speak to those.
posted by pete_22 at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Of the three Elmore Leonard books I've read (based on what's on my bookshelf, I think that's all I have read!), two were mentioned above (Freaky Deaky and Mr. Paradise). I liked both, and both left me with a positive impression of the author. So, you can't go wrong there I suppose.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: OK thanks everyone -- I appreciate everyone's input. Out of Sight happened to be one of the ones I had handy, so I started idly poking through it last night, and ended up staying up way too late reading it. So far I like it quite a bit. Will probably put 52 Pickup on deck in the batter's box, with Swag following in the batting order.

Thanks everyone! Will leave comments open for now, in case anyone has anything to add.
posted by Alaska Jack at 8:54 PM on January 21, 2013

I just loved Cuba Libre.
posted by andreap at 12:49 PM on January 26, 2013

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