“Four Later Novels” (“Get Shorty,” “Rum Punch,” “Out of Sight” and “Tishomongo Blues”) By Elmore Leonard, Library of America, 961 pages, $40.)
Now that Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty” is on its second go round in 22 years as a hot Hollywood property (it inspired a current series on the Epix cable network starring Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano), the time couldn’t be better for a Library of America omnibus edition of three later Leonard novels to be turned into major Hollywood films in the last couple of decades, with one more Leonard novel added for good measure.
The first tasty incarnation of “Get Shorty” in 1995 starred John Travolta and Gene Hackman and was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, a former cinematographer best known for giving the world “Men in Black.” Leonard published the book at an apex of general acclaim in 1990.“Rum Punch” from two years later was the book that Quentin Tarantino transformed into “Jackie Brown,” his 1997 cinematic love letter to Pam Grier, the much-beloved lust-and-mayhem queen of blaxploitation cinema.
“Out of Sight” from 1996 waited only two years to become a film, under its own name. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh whose acclaimed “Logan Lucky” just opened in American movie theaters. Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” is generally and fondly remembered for the thoroughly emblematic early scene in which George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez share the trunk of a car. A lot of wonderfully strange romantic things have happened in American movies that have captured public imaginations but neither Clooney’s or Lopez’ career ever exceeded that one in public response. To attain its classic status, the trunk scene was said to have been filmed 45 times before they got it right. That’s a lot of time for performers to be spooning. The film is now thought by some to be Soderbergh’s best and is generally thought to be Lopez’s best. A TV series based on the book was called “Karen Sisco” and starred Carla Gugino but, alas, it didn’t last as long as it should have."Tishomongo Blues” from 2002 hasn’t yet been filmed but it’s not because no one wanted to. Don Cheadle wanted to star in and direct a film but alas the producer backed out. Leonard remains as filmable as any pulp fiction master ever