The fourth extract from Charles Rzepka’s interview with Elmore Leonard
Professor Charles Rzepka conducted a series of interviews with Elmore Leonard in 2009-10. Crimeculture is delighted to announce that the fourth extract from Professor’s Rzepka’s interviews is now available.
From Elmore Leonard Interview #4, conducted in Bloomfield Village, MI.
CR: I jumped ahead here and I want to go back to the hanging from the roof. I was not only fascinated by Maurice Murray but also I realized that after The Big Bounce hanging from heights, or dying from getting thrown off a building, or having a fear of looking down appears in nearly everything you’ve written.
EL: Is that right?
CR: Have you ever noticed that?
CR: Here, just off the top of my head, in Road Dogs is the scene on the roof with Tico and Jack playing roof ball. That made me go back and look at your other work. There’s Get Shorty, where Bo Catlett falls off his own deck to his death. I think it’s in Stick where Eddie Moke is being held off the balcony by Chuckie, who lets him go. There’s Glitz, where there’s a cab driver who gets thrown off the cliff and this prostitute from Puerto Rico who goes to Atlantic City and gets thrown off a roof.
EL: Right. Wow.
CR: That’s just for starters. And then in Killshot Lionel the ironworker is injured falling from a beam, and you have all of these really high-up perspectives. Take that great scene where they think Wayne is frozen, they think he’s scared. But he’s just in his head rehearsing these surprise scenarios, and he slides down the girder and walks away. But there’s also that great shot in the opening chapter, where Armand goes to Detroit to hit Papa. He walks into the room, and before he says or does anything he sees the scene out the window of the panorama of the cityscape and Canada. It’s like he’s looking at his whole life through the window, like how he got here, not just the other day driving from Toronto, but it’s like Walpole Island and the river and Canada and everything. I bet you in nearly every book you’ve written since The Big Bounce you have a scene where someone is fearful of heights or about to fall or falls to his death, or there’s something to do with great heights. And I don’t think it happens in any of your early westerns, for instance, where someone gets shoved off a mesa or a bluff? But even in an early crime novel like Mr. Majestyk, the climactic scene is where he outwits Renda and the other thugs by getting them to drive off a cliff, off a road on a mesa. Can you think of any earlier books before Big Bounce where that kind of thing happens?
EL: No, but when I was starting out writing I had a dream. I was always falling down these stairs.
CR: When you first started writing?
EL: Yeah, and they were steep and narrow and I’d fall down and you wait for yourself to hit the bottom and that never came. But it was that tightening up on the way down. Then I started to sell and I never had the dream again…. Read more.