The censoring of Elmore Leonard

This most amusing interview by the Freep’s Marta Salij is very wide ranging, spending just as much time on Leonard’s longtime research assistant and webmaster, Gregg Sutter, as on the impetus for the ongoing serial at the New York Times:

It’s the first time Leonard has written serial fiction for a newspaper. It’s the first time he’s written a serial, period. The work took him all summer and really cut into his tennis playing.

And that was before the Times copy editors got it. Now, the idea of Elmore Leonard and his expletive-spouting bad guys being edited for a newspaper that still identifies women as Mrs. So-and-So is hilarious. In time, Leonard will probably think it’s funny, too.

Right now, though, he’s listing the things that the detail-oriented Times editors said were no-nos. “Getting laid.” The Gray Lady’s gatekeepers X’d that one.

“Arkansas.” Arkansas? In newspaper style, it’s abbreviated Ark.

But what if a person is saying “Arkansas”? You still abbreviate, because it’s in the stylebook. Even if you’re writing fiction, it seems.

Sutter fought the Times’ copy editors on that one, and you can see his victory in Chapter 2. But Sutter’s still hot about it.

“They don’t realize this guy’s got a sound. Every word. Ar-kan-saw. That’s a big word for Elmore,” Sutter says. “He sweats every word.”

Leonard plans to turn the serial (a sequel to THE HOT KID) into an 80,000 word novel for HarperCollins. He also hopes that they’ll publish it under the title he wanted to use for the serial — KRAUTS:

“It’s like what Mike Lupica would say: ‘It’s funny. Don’t they get it?’ “ he says.

They ought to, that’s for sure…