Reading Instead of Writing

Good Day for Reading
What I Did This Summer

No, I did commit any murders along with a bunch of my friends. In fact, I did not do anything illegal except maybe for a small amount of public intoxication….But I wasn’t apprehended so that is that. What I did do is work at various labor jobs through a temp service and read a bunch of books. Most readers could probably care less what kind of work I did, so instead I am posting my reading list along with a few comments about each book.

The List

1 & 2. Rum Punch and Cuba Libre

Since my first two books of the summer were novels by a novelist, who just passed away last week, I thought I would cover them both with the same passage. If you haven’t guessed the nwriter yet — shame on you — for it’s Elmore Leornard who just passed away last week. And the two books are Cuba Libre and Rum Punch.

And yes I did read these two fine novels back in May and June before Elmore passed away. Cuba Libre was fascinating romp by a couple of off-the-wall Americans mercanaries in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. It’s one of the books that put Mr. Leornard on the literary map, but I have to admit I enjoyed Rum Punch even more. The spicy Miami characters in this first-rate crime novel come to life convincingly in this classic Elmore Leornard novel. Perhaps one of his best.

3. Shakedown by Gerald Petievich

A suprisingly good read by an ex-law-enforcement officer. This book has a great opening and after the initial scene, the author never lets the reader down. Set in L.A. and Las Vegas, the Shakedown is some very good crime fiction writing.

4. How To Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

The Blackbird sisters are Nancy Martin’s newest literary creations. There are three of them with Nora being the main focus of this mystery/comedy set in fashionable Philadelphia. There’s a lot to love here as author Martin leads the the reader through the cozy upper-class world of Philadelphia’s Main Line, looking for the person, who murdered the wealthy art collector and family friend. If the other Blackbird Sisters stories are as good as this one, they are definitely worth a read.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Somehow I made it through high school and college withoutn being required to read this classic from “The Jazz Age.” This short novel (only 200 pages) has by now become an American classic. Centered around a destuctive love triangle, which includes a Mr. Jay Gatsby, this tragedy still stands tall among American literature. I read this novel as a prelude to the movie release, but never made it to the silver screen to catch the lavish tale from the “Roaring Twenties.” Guess I’ll have to watch the DVD instead.

6. The Drifting Cowboy by Will James

Though born as Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault in Quebec, Canada, Will James came to the West in the early part of the twentieth century and lived a fascinating life as a cowboy, Hollywood stuntman, livestock rustler, author and visual artist. I found this book in the library of the Sioux Falls mission and enjoyed the short read immensely. For lovers of the “Old West”, there are a least a dozen titles put out by this unique writer and published by the Tumbleweed Press in Montana.

7. A Hole In Texas by Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk published A Hole In Texas in 2004 at the ripe old age of 88. It is a fictional story surrounding the partial building of the Supercollider in Texas during the 90s. Ultimately, the project was abandoned, hence the title. The story surrounds one nuclear physicist, his wife and an old female colleague from China, who shows up in the USA to testify in front of Congress. Even a short visit from the world renown scientist is enough to create some serious marital discord the American physicist.

8. The House On Mango Street by Susan Cisneros

This super short book about the author’s childhood neighborhood in Chicago has become an international classic….and rightly so, for it is written in a beautiful experimental prose style that will enthrall the reader’s heart. Ciscerno’s short vignettes on growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood are priceless.

9. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

This is the my first book by the Japanese master and it definitely won’t be the last. Usually, I don’t take well to translated fiction, but Murakami’s writing reads like it was written by a native speaker. Actually, I have learned recently that this is not far from the truth, for Haruki Murakami sometimes works as an English to Japanese translator. He just doesn’t do it for his own writing. Through this collection of short stories, the writer takes the reader to some incredible places, even though they may at first appear very mundane.

10. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman

This is my one non-fiction entry for this post. Even though the book was published 15 years ago, Friedman’s firsthand experiences in Lebanon and Israel still serve as excellent background material for understanding today’s conflicts in the region. I read this first person account of life in the two cities back in late July, but since then events in Syria and Egypt have made the information even more pertinent.

Reading Instead of Writing

Since abandoning most of my writing activities for the past several months, I have felt more relaxed and at ease with the world around me. Never mind that my online e-book sales have dropped right off the charts, and I have failed to sell any articles or short stories since April, for I still feel for refreshed and energized when I now look at a blank sheet of paper with pen in hand. Plus, I have enjoyed my extended reading period. I hope that when I again avail myself to the craft of writing, I will feel thoroughly refreshed by the summer hiatus.

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Leornard’s Legacy

Remembering Elmore Leornard

When I first became interesting in the writings of Elmore Leornard, I had a hard time finding his books in the bookstore because I could not get his name straight. I was always looking for a man named Leornard Elmore…and I was perusing the Literature section instead of Crime Fiction or Mystery, which is where you will usually find this writer’s works. It took a long time to get used to the idea that his last name was actually Leornard.

Devoted to Detroit

Perhaps one of the most interesting things noted about the late author is his dedication to the city of Detroit. Though born in the “Big Easy”, Leornard spent most of his life in and around the Motor City. He attended high school in the city and also graduated from the University of Detroit in 1950 with a degree in English philosophy. Even after Elmore Leornard became successful, he chose to live in one o Detroit’s more modern suburbs, Bloomfield Hills. No wonder Leornard is often referred to as the “Dickens of Detroit”.

My Experience With the Dickens of Detroit

Though Elmore Leornard had been on writer’s radar for many years, it was only in the most recent year or two that I had become familiar with his writing. And that began with viewing the movie, “Get Shorty”. My main impression after seeing “Get Shorty” was that the author was from the LA area. And then I read “Rum Punch” and figured he was from Miami. Next there was “Cuba Libre”, which upon completion had me convinced that Mr. Leornard was actually of Cuban descent. Overall I can’t think of a better skill for a writer, than that of adapting to whatever place he (or she) may find themselves.

My Favorite Elmore Leornard Quotes

“I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

Question: What kind of writing pays best?
Answer: Ransom notes.
from Get Shorty

Never open a book with weather.

These are just a few to wet your whistle. Actually for a writer who was so known for his dialogue, there were not many quotes to be found easily, except for those dealing with writing.

So long for now.