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Elmore Leonard: A True Measure of the Man

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Since the death of Elmore Leonard, many eulogies and comments have been published. I have my own personal experience with the man known as the "Dickens of Detroit" and the "Hemingway of crime," one I will never forget.

About a year ago, prior to the publication of my first novel, I sent bound galleys along with letters to a cadre of well-known crime and thriller authors, hoping some would be willing to read the novel and perhaps provide a brief blurb for the book's cover.

Some authors were famous; others were not quite as well known. None responded in any way to my request.

About three weeks after having sent out the galleys, a letter arrived by mail. It was from none other than Elmore Leonard, the most famous of the authors whom I contacted.

The letter was striking in many ways: for what it said, and for what it was not.

It was not a form letter. It was not a quick brush-off or hastily composed e-mail from a staff member or publicity firm handling Mr. Leonard's public relations. It was not a perfunctory note. Rather, it was typed on his personal stationary, using an old-fashioned typewriter, perhaps a Smith Corona or Royal. It was clear he took time and care in responding.

Here is the letter:

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As a first-time novelist, I'd expected very little in the way of a response from the prestigious authors I'd contacted. It was ironic that the most famous and highly respected of them answered me in this personal and most human way. It was a true measure of the man. I was struck by Elmore Leonard's kindness, care, and by his humility in having written this letter, one I will cherish for the rest of my days.