rip, elmore leonard

elmoreleonard

Sad news today, author Elmore Leonard died this morning of complications from a stroke. The news first broke on his official Facebook page, which is run by his researcher Gregg Sutter. He was 87 years old.

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that Mr. Leonard is one of my favorite authors. In fact, Elmore Leonard and the late Donald E. Westlake are my all-time favorite authors (Mr. Westlake passed away in 2008). Some of my favorite movies — Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and Out of Sight — were based on his books, as is Justified, one of the best shows on TV.

Beyond just writing great books (as if if that wasn’t enough), Elmore Leonard is the reason I read — and write* — crime fiction. Once upon a time, I mostly read spy novels and military techno-thrillers. Sometime in the early 90s, I got tired of that and gave up reading fiction. Yup, you read that right. For the better part of a decade, I was one of those guys who said “I don’t read fiction” (emphasis on that last word to emphasize douche-y air of superiority).

Fast forward to 2002. The 9/11 attacks had happened a few months earlier. As a member of the Air National Guard, I was mobilized and deployed… to Florida. Yeah, go figure. Anyway, I was down there working on the homeland defense mission. I had a pretty cushy existence compared to folks who were getting sent of Afghanistan. A room to myself. A rental car. And a beautiful schedule that had me working 12 hour shifts, 3 days on, 3 off. Lots of time off to enjoy the Sunshine State.

The problem is that I was alone. I was an augmentee in an existing unit. Oh, I worked with people every day, but they were all permanently stationed there. At the end of the duty day, they all went home to their families. I went back to my room. So I spent a lot of my time watching movies. But you can only watch so many movies. And I had to eat out a lot. Eating out alone bores the hell out of me. Unless I have something to read. So I decided to return to reading fiction.

Going back to techno-thrillers didn’t appeal to me. I got enough of the military at work. So I gave crime fiction a try. And what better crime fiction author to read than the man who inspired some of my favorite movies. So I went to the library and checked out Killshot, by Elmore Leonard. I chose that title because it hadn’t (at that time) been the basis for a movie. I wanted to read something I wouldn’t be comparing to a movie.

Long story short, I loved it. I followed up with Freaky Deaky (my personal favorite), Pagan Babies, Get Shorty, and Riding the Rap (the second Raylan Givens novel). I’ve since read many more. I haven’t read all of his novels yet, but I plan to.

Thank you, Mr. Leonard, for the entertainment you have brought to millions of people. You will be missed.

 

*I know, some of you are scratching your heads and saying, “Writing, he writes crime fiction? First I heard o’ that.” Others among you are scratching your heads and saying, “Yeah, he did used to write. What happened?” All I can say is that after an extended period of laziness, I have been busy writing me some crime fiction. In fact, I’ve been pretty busy in August. More on that tomorrow.

prior planning prevents piss poor performance

I saw this story last week about a guy in Portland, OR who tried to rob a gun store armed with a baseball bat and a knife. Needless to say, the robbery was cut short when the store’s manager – armed with a gun – interrupted him. The suspect was held at gunpoint until police arrived to arrest him.

Now this is a classic case of a guy who had the wrong tools for the job. But it’s also a case of failing to prepare. And you know what they – the ubiquitous “they” – say, “When you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Had this dude cased the store properly, he’d have known that the employees carried guns. In fact, I don’t recall ever being in a gun store where most, if not all, of the employees were armed.

Anyway, the whole failing to prepare/preparing to fail thing reminded me of a scene from the 1985 film Code of Silence. The film stars Chuck Norris and was directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Siege). The scene in question involves the attempted robbery of a bar frequented by cops. Look for the late, great Dennis Farina with a cast on his leg and a Chicago Cubs hat on his head.

rip, dennis farina

midnightrun

As you may have already heard, the news broke yesterday that actor Dennis Farina has died. Being a huge fan of his, I was saddened by the news. He usually played either a cop or a crook. As a former Chicago police officer, he had more than a passing familiarity with both. No one could convey menace better than Farina. He also had a gift for comedic roles. His filmography includes some of my favorite movies: Thief, Manhunter, Midnight Run, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Snatch. I’d be hard-pressed to name a favorite role, but this scene from Get Shorty sticks out in my mind as one of his best [Warning: NSFW for language]:

No one could sling the F-word like Dennis Farina. Here’s a nice compilation of the master at work [Warning: NSFW for language]:

In addition to movies, Dennis Farina did some great television. His roles included Michael Mann’s period drama Crime Story, Law & Order, HBO’s excellent Luck, and the CBS private eye series Buddy Faro. I was a big fan of Buddy Faro. Farina played the title character, a PI-to-the-stars who disappeared in 1978. After a 20 year bender, he is found by a young PI (Frank Whaley), who helps him clean up his act and restart his career. Sadly, the show only lasted 13 episodes. Sadder still, it isn’t available on DVD or BluRay. The good news is that I think a few episodes have been uploaded to Youtube. Here’s the opening to the show.

RIP, Mr. Farina. You have left us to soon.

corvette summer

Yesterday, I was reading an article about the 2014 Corvette C7. Since the time I could tell the various car models apart, I’ve been a fan of the Corvette. My favorite body style is probably the early 70s Stingray design. But this new design is easily on par with the classic I fell in love with as a youngster. In addition to the snazzy new styling, the latest model Vette has a 455 horsepower engine, and can go 0-60 in 3.8 seconds. Damn, I can’t even get out of bed that fast. Starting price is about $52k. Top o’ the line will run you just over $73k. I want one… Okay, I may actually need two. In case I wear one out.

the health food heist

mastermind

Okay, pop quiz for all you criminal masterminds out there. You’re a fugitive with a felony warrant for your arrest in Oregon. You find yourself in a Walmart in Ada County, Idaho when you get the munchies. About $5 worth of junk food will satisfy your craving. You have $20 in your pocket and another $2000 in your car. What do you do?

That’s a tough question. But not if you’re Stephen Anthony Jacalone. If you were him, you’d know that the correct answer is to shoplift your snack. Which results in your promptly being caught. Then the police are called. They do a quick check for active warrants and , lo and behold, find you have a warrant in Oregon. Oops. Might as well waive extradition. No sense staying in Idaho, where you’re sure to be ridiculed every minute you’re there. The lengths people will go to to save a buck or two…

vajaygun

vajaygun

Now here’s something you (hopefully) don’t see every day. Police in Oklahoma, while searching the recently arrested Christie Dawn Harris (pictured above on the left), found a .22 caliber revolver (pictured above on the right) hidden in her vagina. The gun was loaded with three live rounds. Why was she hiding the gun in her vagina? Because she couldn’t use her butt crack, as it was filled with baggies of methamphetamine.

A few things come to mind here:

1. Where did she get ammo. I’ve been having a helluva time finding rounds for my .22.

2. I hope she was using Remington ammo. Doing so would reduce the chances of accidentally shooting herself.

3. As bad as this sounds, at least it was a small gun. I mean, it’s not like she was hiding Bullet Tooth Tony’s Desert Eagle .50 up there.

a short drive in a long car

limodriverfail

Meet Tyler Bellick, of Schenectady. Tyler is not a limo driver, and he doesn’t play one on TV. But Tyler didn’t let that stand in his way last weekend.

It seems that during a night out in Saratoga Springs, NY, Tyler had a bit of a problem starting his own car. Apparently, the court-ordered interlock device installed on his own car got a notion that he’d had too much to drink, so it strongly hinted that he should find an alternate means of transportation. And that’s just what he did.

As luck would have it, someone had left a car sitting around with the keys still inside. So Tyler decided to take it for a spin. The car, by the way, was a limousine. And it was packed with ladies out on the town for a bachelorette party. Ladies who were not happy about the unscheduled departure. Or the drunk driver at the wheel.

Fortunately, the impromptu trip didn’t last long. Carla Rinaldi, a friend of the bachelorette, put an early end to Tyler’s joy ride. Springing into action like Lara Croft in Prada, Ms. Rinaldi jumped the divider, grabbed Tyler around the neck with one hand, and knocked the car out of gear with the other. When the car came to an abrupt halt, Tyler jumped out and hoofed it out of there. With a squad of pissed-off ladies in hot pursuit. He was quickly apprehended by security personnel at the Saratoga Casino (where the incident took place), who held him until police arrived.

Tyler Bellick was charged with felony driving while intoxicated, fourth-degree grand larceny, and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

busted: california state mining and mineral museum robbers

Remember this story about a robbery at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum by men using pickaxes? I had suggested that, due the robbers’ use of weapons of opportunity (pickaxes), that these guys were amateurs and that they’d be arrested within a week or two. Looks like I was wrong. Sort of. Apparently they made it a whole six weeks. I stand corrected. Sort of.

On Tuesday, CHP detectives arrested three men for the robbery. KMPH Fox 26 is reporting a fourth arrest in the case. No word yet on whether any of the stolen items (valued at over $1 million) were recovered.

smash and grab, London-style

Last week, Brent Cross Shopping Centre, located just north of London, was the scene of a pretty dramatic smash and grab robbery. Six men on three motorcycles hit the Fraser Hart jewelry store just after 10 AM last Tuesday. Armed with bats and axes, the men smashed cases and stole expensive watches and jewelry. They rode off several minutes later with an estimated $3.2 million in merchandise. Not bad for less than an hour’s work. The bikes were found abandoned at a golf course not too far from the mall. Here’s a video of the robbery, taken from one of the mall’s security cameras:

I have to give them credit, these guys were pretty slick. This thing just begs to be made into a movie. Maybe with Guy Ritchie directing. Jason Statham would have to be in it, of course. And maybe Stephen Graham and Tom Hardy. Ray Winstone would be perfect for the lead detective on the case. Any other casting suggestions?