Monday, December 30, 2013

Tributes: Elmore Leonard, Tom Clancy, Barbara Park



This is the time of year I pay tribute to authors who have left us and left an indelible mark on my reading life. Elmore Leonard is one of my all time favorite authors. His quirky but realistic style of writing is like no other. Tom Clancy’s international thrillers were just that: thrilling. And Barbara Park influenced reading for children like no other author could.

About a decade ago I saw an interview by Larry King with Tom Clancy who said he couldn’t believe how lucky he had been because he got to lead a life of make belief in creating scenarios where the good guy always won, usually his hero Jack Ryan who has been portrayed on screen by three actors, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck or his second hero Mr. Clark who has been portrayed by actors Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber.  The last novel by Clancy that I read was The Bear and the Dragon. He collaborated with other writers in continuing his war games. He died of an undisclosed illness at age 66 but one of his friends suggested that his heart wore out.

Barbara Park was the complete opposite of Clancy and Leonard but her influence in inspiring young girls to read goes without parallel. Sometime in the late 1990s, I was looking for books for my then youngest granddaughter Mallory. I had no problem finding books for her older sister Brittany. But Mallory was just learning to read and all I could find were simple books about animals. Then one day as I was standing in the book section of Wal-Mart and wondering if I would ever find something cute for Mallory, it happened. Out of nowhere Junie B. Jones appeared! Of course, it wasn’t like that exactly but Junie B., a mischievous kindergartner, stood out like no other fictional character. I bought one of the books and sent it to Mallory and she was off and reading! Barbara Park’s sense of humor and creativity have helped instill a love of lifetime reading as no other author could have done. She died at age 66 of ovarian cancer but Junie B. and other characters she created will live on forever.

Elmore Leonard's sense of humor and quirky style captivated me the moment I started reading his work.  The first of his novels that I read was Glitz where his “hero” goes to Puerto Rico (a place where I lived for four years) and in it he mentions the Carmen Apartments where a friend of mine lived with her young son. But it wasn’t just Puerto Rico that captured my attention, it was the characters and the plot. I have now read twenty-two of his books, the last one a compilation of nine short stories titled Fire in the Hole. And the last story in that series, Tenkiller, is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. First of all it takes place in Okmulgee, Oklahoma where I was born. Second, he gives a hilarious portrait of the town and its inhabitants. The ending literally left me laughing out loud. He died at age 88 still at the height of his popularity.

I could go on forever extolling the virtues of these three writers. Each was unique and each contributed literature without parallel. 

12 comments:

Jean Joachim said...

Thank you for this blog. I found it fascinating and learn so much about authors I haven't read. So now, of course, I'm going to put these folks on my TBR pile. I have seen Tom Clancy's movies and loved them. Jack Ryan grabbed me right away. But the other two are totally unfamiliar. I believe they've made a few movies out of Elmore Leonard books, too. Thanks for this, Pat. Great post!

Palmaltas said...

Jean, Elmore Leonard is one of my top three all-time favorite authors. I can't tell you what a joy it is, for me at least, to pick up one of his books and read it.

Max Radin said...

Hi Pat-
I was too am a huge fan of Elmore Leonard's work. IMHO he set the bar for the modern crime novel. I met him many years ago at a book signing and for some odd reason no one else was lining up so we got to chat for a long time. He was the nicest guy.

Palmaltas said...

Max, how thrilling to have spent so much time with him. I'm thrilled that I still have several of his books that I haven't read yet.

Jackie said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been a bit Elmore Leonard fan for years -- I love his writing style! I met him once at a signing years ago and found him quite personable.

Jackie said...

Er, that's biG, not biT.

Palmaltas said...

Jackie, how wonderful that you got to meet Elmore Leonard. I am so envious of you who did have that privilege.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Pat,
A timely and necessary post. I knew Tom Clancy and Elmore Leonard from movies made of their novels rather than from having read their books. No matter. I enjoyed them and recognized the great contributions each made to their genres.

Barbara Parks is another story. As a children's book writer, I read most of her books and found them utterly enchanting. Some criticized her for using "poor grammar" in her Junie B. Jones books. Not me!

Palmaltas said...

Marilyn, the only Tom Clancy movie I've seen was The Hunt for Red October. And the only Elmore Leonard movie I've seen was Get Shorty but I read the books first.

Junie B. was a rascal and a girl many could identify with. She was funny and I'm sure the humor was the most important. I've read lots of criticism of Park's portrayal of her but disagreed with all of it.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Pat,
Once again we think alike!

marja said...

Terrific post, Pat! I'm sad to admit I haven't read these authors, although I did see a few of the movies. It seems you've encouraged me to add them to my list of reading.
Marja McGraw

Palmaltas said...

Marja, if you enjoyed the movies of Clancy and Elmore, you would probably enjoy the books even more. Thanks for reading the post.