Friday, October 19, 2012

Meeting Maximum Bob (a bit belatedly)

Elmore Leonard is widely acknowledged as a master of crime fiction. Indeed, he’s a versatile writer who’s also accomplished in other genres, including Westerns.

I’ve enjoyed his work both on the page and in film adaptations. Over twenty years ago, I was tremendously impressed by the smooth writing and daring plot twists in the 3-novel collection Gold Coast.

On film, Get Shorty, with John Travolta and Danny DeVito, was a hoot. Out of Sight, with an emerging-from-ER George Clooney and a young Jennifer Lopez, was splendidly executed as well.

There is also a film version of Leonard’s 52 Pickup, which I haven’t seen. All year, however, I’ve been intending to pick up the book. It seemed fitting to do so, because that’s my age.

So today, I tried two places to pick up 52 Pickup. First I tried Midway Book, a venerable and well-stocked used bookstore in St. Paul’s Midway area. No luck.

Next I tried the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley, a St. Paul suburb. No luck there either.

There was, however, a definite silver lining for the independent scholar who blogs about sentencing policy. One of the Elmore Leonard titles that were on the shelf was Maximum Bob — a book whose very title points to teachable moments about judicial discretion.

Turns out there was a short-lived TV series in 1998 based on the book. I missed that entirely at the time. But ’98 was the year that I began my stint with the Iowa Legislature on its special sentencing commission. Considering that judicial discretion was a key topic on the commission, I’m surprised Maximum Bob didn’t come up during our work.

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