Thursday, April 30, 2009


Recently, my potentially soul sapping commute to work has been enhanced by the presence of wise cracking shylocks, fraudsters, hit men, burnt-out cops, deceitful debutantes, extortionists and bomb yielding ex-hippies. No, I am not carpooling with the mafia, but rather listening to some fabulous audio books by yarn spinner extraordinaire Elmore Leonard.

Leonard is probably best known for his books that were made into movies ("Get Shorty", "Be Cool" ,"3:10 To Yuma"), and these stories pretty well offer a consistent snapshot of much of his work. There is usually a large cast of characters that are interwoven by a combination of some elaborate scam and/or vendetta that plays out in some outrageous fashion towards the end.

While the main characters are often a little more complex with some sordid history behind them, they are often complimented by a litany of two-dimensional characters that adhere to various exaggerated personality traits, including, but not limited to, some wannabe low grade gangster character that is often too stupid for words.

Leonard's stories work well as audio books due to the fact that they are primarily driven by rapid fire dialogue rather than traditional narrative devices. They play out like some 30's or 40's era radio drama mixed with some late 20th century irony and some pop culture references thrown in for good measure.

I have picked up a few more of his audio books from the library recently and I have been so engaged with the stories that I am often reluctant to get out of my car while in the midst of some rather witty and engaging pieces of dialogue. The stories are gripping and often pick up the pace as the multiplicity of characters end up coming together for a dramatic clash towards the book's climax.

Right now I am listening to one of his books from the late 80's, "Freaky Deaky" about a couple of ex-hippies looking to extort some cash out of some fellow former radicals who are now yuppies, while eventually getting mixed up with a prototypical burnt-out and relationship challenged ex-cop. Of course I am only about a third of the way through, so things should get even more interesting.

It is all great fun, and in addition to providing temporary respite from the minute by minute swine flu updates on the radio, it is also great fodder for my imagination. Even better, it transforms the road I travel on a daily basis into a platform to explore and enjoy the absurd, farcical and wonderfully sordid tales that are an inherent part of the human condition.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love listening to stories on cd on cross country road trips as a break from the music cds, and you are right, the time (and miles) absolutely fly by while listening.

Good plan for your commute!

mellowlee said...

Perhaps I should start putting my library card to use!!!!

Anonymous said...

Freaky Deaky is a great Elmore Leonard book, possibl his best. Should be a film, but an audi book is great nonetheless.