by Pamela Young, Published March 19, 2013
YPSILANTI - Crime writer Peter Leonard, whose suspense thrillers have won national acclaim, will be the guest speaker at Eastern Michigan University, Wednesday, March 20, 1:30 - 3 p.m. in room 300 Halle Library.
The event, which celebrates National Reading Month, is free and open to the public.
Leonard, a 1974 Eastern Michigan graduate, is the son of renowned Detroit native and crime writer Elmore Leonard, known for his 45 novels and screenplays, many of them featuring gritty, street-wise Detroit characters.
Now the author of five novels, Peter Leonard has made a name for himself. During a 2012 interview with CNN's Ann O'Neill, Leonard said, his "first effort, Invasion, had 37 characters, no hero and no publisher." After a total rewrite, his efforts ended in his second book, "Trust Me."
Peter Leonard followed in his father's footsteps by writing ads for 20 years, but his life changed, thanks to a creative writing class. When his father read one of his first stories, which ran only six pages, Leonard senior said, "Your characters are like strips of leather drying in the sun. They all look and sound the same." Did the criticism affect him? Only for 27 years, Peter told CNN's O'Neill.
Leonard doesn't view himself as a crime writer, although he admits his writing has been influenced by such writers as John D. McDonald, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Parker and James Lee Burke.
On Peter Leonard's website, popular crime writer Carl Hiaasen, who's also known for his shady characters, said, "Elmore Leonard is a tough act to follow, but son Peter is off to a terrific start... Clearly great storytelling runs in the Leonard family DNA."
Leonard's advice for beginning writers is simple, something his dad, Elmore, drilled into him: "Writers are set apart from others because they believe that real life is, 'a story ripe for plunder.' You can't make this stuff up."
For an intimate view of Peter and Elmore Leonard and their rapid, machine-gun style of talking, see Ann O'Neill's interview.