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Being Cool

, 238 pages

12 b&w illus.

August 2013



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Being Cool

The Work of Elmore Leonard


Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard had a special knack for creating "cool" characters. In Being Cool, Charles J. Rzepka looks at what makes the dope-dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisors, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world cool. They may be nefarious, but they are also confident, skilled, and composed. And they are good at what they do. Taking being cool as the highway through Leonard's life and works, Rzepka finds plenty of byways to explore along the way.

Rzepka delineates the stages and patterns that characterize Leonard’s creative evolution. Like jazz greats, he forged an individual writing style immediately recognizable for its voice and rhythm, including his characters' rat-a-tat recitations, curt backhands, and ragged trains of thought. Rzepka draws on more than twelve hours of personal interviews with Leonard and applies what he learned to his close analysis of the writer’s long life and prodigious output: 45 published novels, 39 published and unpublished short stories, and numerous essays written over the course of six decades.

Charles J. Rzepka is a professor of English at Boston University. He is the author of Inventions and Interventions: Selected Studies in Romantic and American Literature, History, and Culture; Detective Fiction; Sacramental Commodities: Gift, Text, and the Sublime in De Quincey; and The Self as Mind: Vision and Identity in Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats.

"Rzepka’s close reading of Leonard’s fiction is an insightful, thorough and timely addition to scholarship on the author."

"Few people are as versed in Elmore Leonard’s world as Charles Rzepka."

"Rzepka uncovers interesting patterns that link the individual works and identifies connections between incidents in Leonard's life and his fiction. This is an important work on an important writer."

"Rzepka exhibits a considerable techne of his own combining a playful critical voice with detailed close reading. Those interested in the craft of writing would are sure to enjoy Rzepka’s interpretation of Leonard’s style"

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