This is one of the off-line letters I got on the John D. MacDonald issue. I think it's an interesting way to end the discussion:
Well, I'm in my (late) thirties and I love JDM. But I
grew up with my Dad reading him and a lot of
westerns--L'Amour and Luke Short--so maybe I have JDM
appreciation in my DNA. (Sorry for all the
abbreviations.) Deep Blue Good-By, Dead Low Tide etc
are some of my favorites. And I love the social
commentary, even if it is a little dated. His
observations about human nature are not dated at all.
I think you're right that Leonard is the right writer
for these times--a little slick, a little quirky, a
little self-consciously hip. I tend to like his
westerns better these days, although some of his crime
novels--like Cat Chaser--are excellent of course.
Hope you are well. My novel hits the streets on
January 29th, so I'm getting excited.
David Jack Bell | http://www.davidjackbell.com
Ed here: Me, too, with the westerns. And his crime stuff up to and including Unknown Man Number 89, 52 Pick-Up and Ryan's Rules. My favorite Leonard flat out is Valdez Is Coming. Yes I'm a heretic and will burn in hell.
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I like JDM's standalone novels pretty well, especially Soft Touch which is brilliant. I've read only one Mcgee, Darker Than Amber, and thought it was awful. Not because it moved slowly just because it seemed half-hearted. Maybe I just picked the wrong one.
Leonard's long been my favorite author. i love both his westerns and his crime stuff--at least up until Glitz, whereafter I think his books became largely less focused or something. Less enjoyable for me anyway. Maybe too much wacky stuff. I'd say La Brava is my favorite of his crime novels and 40 Lashes Less One of his westerns. And by the way I'm 41 and a bigger fan of *classic* noir fiction than contemporary neo-noir. I don't find the old stuff slow at all. In fact quite the opposite. The best guys--Brewer, Braly, Day Keene, etc.--wrote uncluttered, staight-ahead prose that jets. mtm
I would hope that the younger more easily bored folks end up treating the James Pattersons and John Sandfords, etc. as appetizers and eventually move on to more meatier entrees. I can't read Patterson (too gimmicky) but I do read Sandford; it's almost like reading a Spider or Doc Savage book: quick and easy. But then I'll read more demanding and involving things. Leonard to me has always come off as too thin; easy to read, and I can appreciate what's there, but they're thin like a gentle rub as opposed to a deep tissue massage. They don't make as much an impression on me as I've always felt they should.
Algis Budrys once suggested that Leonard was a bit less cartoonish than Donald Westlake...perhaps because I've mostly read latter-day Leonards, I've thought quite the opposite.
And I'm still waiting for the Leonard, and maybe even the Westlake, quite as good as JDM's THE EXECUTIONERS.
I'm with you on Valdez is Coming, Ed. Great stuff.
And of course I'm a JDM fan of long standing. I've read all his novels (including Weep for Me), and while there are a few misses, the hits far outnumber them.
There's also a quite interesting film version of VALDEZ, starring of all people Burt Lancaster. It's a rugged as hell film, and has a fairly reserved performance by Lancaster. One of those funky early 70s westerns that at least tries for a Sergio Leone hipness.
Folks who haven't read Leonard in a while might enjoy his two recent outings, THE HOT KID and its sequel UP IN HONEY'S ROOM. THK is a nice fusion of his westerns and crime novels, taking place in the early 20th Century, following a young FBI agent across the lawless plains.
UIHR is an almost George Higgins-type of novel told 90% in dialogue, following some of the same characters into the early 40s as they chase escaped Nazis around Detroit. Pretty off the wall, even for Leonard, but a lot of fun
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