Peter Leonard writes thrillers that have earned him wide critical acclaim. He is also the son of Elmore Leonard, one of the greatest crime novelists of all time. His latest novel is Eyes Closed Tight. Peter met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about his new release and the Raylan novel he is writing as a tribute to his father.
O’Clair, a former Detroit homicide investigator, now in retirement, owns a motel in Pompano Beach, Florida. He runs the place with his much younger girlfriend, Virginia, a knockout who can fix anything. One morning he’s cleaning up after the previous night’s partiers when he sees a lovely young girl stretched out asleep on a lounge chair. He tries to wake her, then touches her neck and feels for a pulse. There isn’t one. Her skin is cold, body starting to stiffen, definitely in the early stages of rigor.
When a second girl is murdered, O’Clair knows someone is sending him a message. The way the girls are killed reminds O’Clair of a case he investigated years earlier. Now convinced the Pompano murders are related, O’Clair returns to Detroit Police homicide to review the murder file and try to figure out what he might’ve missed.
How are you progressing with your father Elmore Leonard’s unfinished novel?
I decided shortly after my father passed away that finishing Blue Dreams, the novel he was working on, was a bad idea. I felt odd meddling, insinuating myself in this novel where I didn’t belong. I decided instead to write a Raylan Givens novel as a tribute to my father. I could take my father’s beloved character and put him in my own story. My working title is: Raylan goes to Detroit. This is new and interesting territory for deputy U.S. marshal Givens. He ends up on the Fugitive Task Force hunting a ruthless drug trafficker on an odyssey that takes him from Detroit to Tucson, Arizona to San Diego, California and then south into Mexico.
Do you think much crime fiction sanitises crime?
I think the proliferation of crime novels and crime TV shows have educated readers and viewers, and that makes it more difficult to develop plots and story lines that are fresh and interesting. Crime fans are far more knowledgeable and sophisticated today. I don’t know that crime fiction sanitises crime as much as it blunts the impact of crime.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
Researching the Raylan novel, I spent some time with a young female deputy U.S. marshal on the Detroit Fugitive Task Force, accompanying her as she hunted bank robbers, murderers, and drug traffickers. I’ve written a short story, incorporating much of what I saw and heard. It’s called Armed and Dangerous. I’m in the process of selling it as a TV series.
Thank you Peter for a great interview.
Find Peter Leonard at his website http://www.peterleonardbooks.com/