"My work draws on nothing that's apparent from my personal life," Elmore Leonard says. It's just as well, judging by the sleazy, if colorful, characters and perilous situations confronting his heroes. In his newest tricky thriller, "Glitz" (Arbor House: $14.95; Feb. 28), Miami Beach cop Vincent Mora winds up in Atlantic City bumping into such unlovely specimen as Teddy Magyk, a mother's boy maniac; Ricky the Zit Catalina, a k a Ricky the Sickie; Frank "The Ching" Chingoro, who "used to kill people," and maybe even one or two nice folks.
What writers influenced Leonard? "James M. Cain, to some degree. The major influence in the beginning was Hemingway. . . . But I recognized my attitude about storytelling, not in Hemingway but in authors such as Vonnegut, Richard Bissel and Mark Harris. I felt a kinship with them, with their ability to see humor, absurdities, in serious situations."
Nearly all of Leonard's books, "Glitz" included, have been optioned by film companies. ("Stick" was recently made into a movie by Burt Reynolds.) And he has written scripts from other novels, such as William Kienzle's "The Rosary Murders." Of that craft, he notes: "People who don't know how to write presume to tell you what to write. People who seldom leave Beverly Hills tell you about social behavior out in the world. Writers try to give them reality, and they turn it down or into a comic-strip movie. Raymond Chandler's advice is to wear your second-best suit, artistically speaking, when writing a screenplay; but be polite and thank them when you leave, because you might want to come back."