Friday, February 29, 2008

Guest Blogger: THEO GANGI

Theo Gangi is a new author - his first book, BANG BANG, came out in November.

A fan of Elmore Leonard, Theo shares his thoughts...


I’ve never tried to hide how much my favorite crime writer, Elmore Leonard, has influenced my writing. Up until I began reading him, I was struggling to figure out how to reconcile the diversity of my characters and style. I wanted to pull people in from all over the urban/ethnic landscape, so watching Leonard do it with such ease gave me hope I could do it too.

I have to pace myself with reading him—monogamy might work with relationships, but not with books. Though I don’t mind how my influence has been recognized by some of the reviews for Bang Bang, such as Mystery Scene Magazine referring to me as “The hip hop Elmore Leonard,” I’ve got to be careful to preserve my own voice.

It had probably been close to a year since I read one of his books. I’d found myself in a book rut, jumping restlessly from title to title—speed dating, as it were. Tried them out, had a couple laughs, but nothing worth committing to. Then I found a copy of Leonard’s Touch on a downtown bookseller table for two dollars. It was an old mass market Avon copy from the 80’s with those great noir covers featuring the props used in the novel—a bottle of Thunderbird, the Detroit Free Press, cash, incense, panties and a revolver on a red satin sheet. I bought it just for the cover and began leafing through on the way home.

Then I got hooked. Touch jumped to the top of my stack. I didn’t plan it, it just happened.

This book might not be what you’d expect from a crime writer. Touch is the story of Juvenal, a man afflicted with the stigmata who bleeds from Christ’s wounds and works as an AA counselor. As often happens in Leonard’s novels, the schemers/other characters figure out very creative ways to make money off of Juvenal, mostly involving the public viewing of Juvenal’s ability to heal people. The treasure hunt in this book is Juvenal himself, a would-be saint who falls in love like a teenager and is as nice to the drunks as he is to the right wing fanatics trying to cash in off of him.

An overall great read, impossible to put down, and, as always, makes you see people in a new and interesting light. Leonard’s plotting is remarkable– the tumbling, organic sense that his books are living as you read them. Leonard was known to claim he wrote his books to see how they ended, and as you read him, his stories have the organized chaos of a Charlie Parker solo, the improvisations of a master of form.

As a reader, I try to get a really diverse sample of the writing out there—in and out of crime fiction. But when the party starts, sometimes you’ve got to dance with the one that brung you.

Search This Blog