Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard books used to decorate my family’s night stands back in the day. They bring back memories of my Dad. They were his indulgence. The covers were unique, maybe a product of the times, like Mary Tyler Moore fonts they scream seventies. A couple of years back, I rediscovered an interest in these novels. My strongest memories of my Dad are of him as a middle aged man, where I am now. I have become my father, and every seventies novel is a new badge of honor.
This time round, it’s Elmore Leonard’s 52 Pickup. You might not know that Elmore Leonard wrote a lot of Westerns before he wrote his more famous pulp fiction. I read some of his Western short stories in a compilation, and while there are flashes of good writing, he came into his own after his Western phase. His true medium is the pulp/thriller genre.
In reading 52 Pickup, I found myself thinking that the characters were well described, the story simple yet compelling, but it’s kind of cliche. It’s a story about a seemingly regular guy who is pushed by forces beyond his control, and he fights back. There are things about this man that other people don’t know, that he’d been in the war, and that he’d killed men before. He seems like a great guy, but you know what, he has a much harder side to him.
Then I came to a much more important realization, that I was reading the birth of a cliche. Pre-seventies it wasn’t a cliche. Hollywood made it into a movie. Now, you see essentially the same movie a couple dozen times a year.
Next up, Rum Punch.