Elmore Leonard


One thing you can safely say about Elmore Leonard, he sure knows how to talk.

His conversation is spare and easy, a string of stories about people he knows or things that have happened to them, told with only the most essential, astute detail, and building up to an effortless punchline. Plus of course, he enjoys the added benefit of having a really great name: Elmore Leonard.

In two moves, this makes him the perfect character – for one of his own books.

Although branded a ‘mystery writer’ in the States, alongside the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, there is rarely much mystery to solve in his books (books like ‘Glitz’ or ‘Stick’ or ‘Get Shorty’). He hooks you with the characters – the scams they’re trying to pull, the spots they end up in and above all, the banter they have.

Few writers excel at, or rely on, dialogue the way Elmore Leonard does. Characters can literally talk their way into one of his stories, or out.
“What can happen, if a minor or no-name character shows he can talk, “ he says with a chuckle, “he can shove his way into the story and get a more important part. Or they can get demoted. Get less to do in the story.”

Take Tommy Donovan, in ‘Glitz’ for instance.
“I thought he was gonna be important,” Elmore complains. “But he ends up just drinking throughout the whole book.”

Then Elmore thought Donovan’s wife, Nancy, would be his lead, “but then Linda Moon came along and I liked her alot better.”

In Elmore Leonard’s hands, talking can be a matter of life and death sometimes. Take the best scene in his new book, ‘Riding The Rap’, about three mis-matched petty criminals who hatch a plan to abduct a bookie called Harry Arno they owe money to in order to avail him of his (illegally-made) millions. They are being pursued by Harry’s friend and rival in love, Federal Marshall Raylan Givens.

The scene is a brilliantly set-up shoot-out between two of the gang – Bobby Deo, a psychotic Puerto Rican bounty-hunter/hit-man, and Louis Lewis, a more thoughtful ex-con from the Bahamas working as a bodyguard for the ‘mastermind’ of the kidnap plan, ‘Chip’ Ganz. (Leonard had the idea for the book while watching and reading about the hostages in Beirut – just as Ganz does in the story.)

Inspired by the Marshall’s cool cowboy image, Deo has started to fantasise about what it would be like to take Raylan Givens out in a quick-draw shoot-out. He persuades the decidedly nervous Lewis, to do a dress rehearsal with him.

“I know by then one of them is gonna shoot another,” Leonard says. “I want the reader to think they know what’s gonna happen, an’ up to a certain point I think it’s gonna happen too.”

At this point in the book though, Elmore Leonard likes certain characters more others. The delicious twist he gives the scene comes down to one thing.

“All my characters have to be able to talk,” he explains, “but when you come down to this, you’re gonna select the one that’s gonna be a better talker.”

Getting the talking right dominates Leonard’s planning. When he was researching ‘Bandit’, he went to Dublin for a few days to get the feel of Irish speech patterns and the flavour of the local street-talk.
“I wandered round jotting down phrases in a notebook,” he says. “Little things. Little expressions.”

He used them all too.
“But after I’d used up everything I had in my notebook,” he says. “I had my character shot.”

After all, he adds with a quiet smile, “he had nothing else to say.”

THE DAY I MEET HIM, Elmore Leonard himself seems to have plenty to say.

We are sitting in the kitchen of his large house in the leafy suburb of Bloomfield Village, Michigan, just outside Detroit, with his young wife, Christine, watching red squirrels the size of rabbits playing outside, feeding on the nuts Elmore leaves for them. An old Lana Turner movie is playing on TV in the background.

Leonard seems in no hurry for the interview to end, doesn’t even wait for it to start before telling me he has “just finished a book.” (Elmore Leonard finishes writing books the way most people read them.)

Slowly but surely, he sets out the origins of the next novel, the location and the characters; who he talked to research it, their names and the names of the guns they use; the funny things they said and the nasty crimes they told him about. He takes his time, and doesn’t seem to say much, but it’s not long before you’re gripped.

“It’s called ‘Out of Sight’”, he says pausing long enough to draw on his cigarette. “Which was originally the title for ‘Riding The Rap’. But probably any one of my books could be called ‘Out of Sight’.”

He is in fine fettle and good spirits, which is hardly surprising. These are turning out to be halcyon days.

The John Travolta movie of his 1990 novel, ‘Get Shorty’, has prompted a tide of Elmore Leonard/’Get Shorty’ mania in the States, culminating in an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for Travolta for his performance as loan-shark, Chili Palmer.

Not only that, but, against the odds (and after years of trying), the movie is actually as funny, and thoroughly entertaining, as Leonard’s book, thanks to a largely faithful script and some snazzy direction from Barry Sonnenfeld.

Then, the rights to ‘Riding The Rap’ have been bought by Leonard’s Number One Fan, Quentin Tarantino, and Leonard’s agent in Hollywood has already sold ‘Out of Sight’ for a cool 3 million dollars.

He mentions that he and Christine, whom he married in 1993, the same year his second wife died, have just come back from Mexico and are planning a trip to Paris. They also have a place in Florida.

It comes as some surprise to learn that such a friendly, enthusiastic young woman, could be the model for hitman and quick-draw demon, Bobby Deo, also known as Bobby The Gardener for his penchant for trimming his victims’ ears with a pair of garden secateurs that he carries round on his belt, like a gun-slinger.

The first time Leonard saw Christine, he looked out the window at home and found her working as part of the service he had hired to take care of the garden. The second time she visited, they went into Birmingham to have dinner (“impromptu”). Elmore noticed that even there, she had her pruners clipped to her belt, like a gunslinger.
“I thought, I’m gonna use this,” he says. “I thought, I’m married now to a person who knows gardening. So I can get information. I can go in the next room and get information.”

‘Riding The Rap’ is dedicated to her.

Elmore John Leonard was born in New Orleans, the son of a General Motors location scout who moved from Dallas to Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit when Elmore was 10.

He still lives there mostly to be near his family (he has five children and 10 grandchildren) but says “growing up here was fun. It’s a working man’s town. A shot-and-a-beer town. Nowadays though there’s no real reason to go downtown.”

After the war, Leonard worked writing advertising copy for Chevrolets. Through the 50s, he’d get up at 5am two hours before going to work to write Westerns, mainly short stories which he’d sell to pulp magazines for two cents a word, and to Hollywood – films like ‘The Tall T’ and ‘3:10 To Yuma’. He quit his job in 1961 but struggled until 20th Century Fox paid $ 10,000 for ‘Hombre’, which starred Paul Newman.

When the abundance of Westerns on TV killed the market, he wrote his first crime novel, ‘The Big Bounce’, in 1969, although the two styles have had enough in common that ‘City Primeval’ was sub-titled ‘High Noon in Detroit’.

He developed his style through books like ‘Swag’, ‘52 Pick-Up’, and ‘Stick’ with stories that weren’t as corny as most crime books and are the easiest thing in the world to read. His big breakthrough in 1984 with ‘La Brava’ followed by ‘Glitz’, which was so successful that he made the cover of Newsweek – “THE BIG THRILL. Mystery Writers Are Making A Killing”. Time’ magazine went as far as to label him “the Dickens of Detroit”.

Meeting him, of course, the modern crime-writers’ stereotype is confirmed: he couldn’t be sweeter.

He has an wizened, owlish face with narrowing eyes. He is careful, as non-committal as one of the Sheriffs from his Westerns. ‘Laconic’ would be the word for him (unless he could think of a shorter one).

If you were to characterise him, the way he describes his own characters, there are certain things you would need to mention.

If he were a character on TV, Elmore Leonard would be cartoon character Touché Turtle. He will mention something, apropos of nothing, then tootle off and go and get it to show you. His voice is slurred slightly which makes him seem even more genial.

He is known as ‘Dutch’ (after the baseball pitcher, Dutch Leonard) and suffered at school for his strange name. (Even Harry Dean Stanton asked him if ‘Elmore’ was his first name or his surname).

When we meet, he is wearing a white shirt, thick green jumper and blue jeans, with white socks and trainers. Nondescript. Like a tourist.

He drives a 1995 Volkswagen convertible and has never been in prison, though he has visited Tennessee State Penitentiary and Angola amongst others. He does not possess a handgun, though he has a good friend with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who loves to show him the sub-machine gun he keeps in the trunk of his car.

He writes his novels by hand at his desk in the living room, typing them up as he goes along on an IBM Wheelwriter 1000 (“not even an electric”). The first question aspiring writers always ask him, he says, is why he doesn’t get a word processor – he could write much quicker.
“Like that’s what I’ve always wanted,” he smiles. “To write quicker.”

He loves movies. Antonioni’s ‘The Passenger’ and Robert Mitchum’s ‘Out of the Past’ being a couple of his favourites. He likes Robert Duvall, Harry Dean Stanton (who he wants to play his judge, ‘Maximum Bob’) and “guys like de Niro and Pacino.”

While his characters might specialise in bank-raids or loan-sharking, Elmore Leonard’s game is, and has always been, story-telling; story-telling and movies. As early as 11 or 12, years old, he would come home from the movies and tell his friends the story.

Growing up, he knew one or two criminal types – a friend from college who did a year of federal time for bank fraud (“like embezzlement. A set-up.”); a guy related to his second wife, currently doing 30 years in Jefftown, Missouri, for armed robbery.

But probably the biggest criminal influence on his life was Bonnie & Clyde. He has a photograph taken in Memphis in 1934, when he was 9 or 10 years old (he goes off to get it). In it, he is wearing a white cap (“not a prop. It was my cap.”), slick white trousers and a blazer buttoned up. He is standing by a car with his mother and sister, with one foot up on the running board, and is turned to one side, smiling, aiming a pistol at the camera (“a cap pistol”.)

“It’s the exact same pose as the famous photo of Bonnie Parker that had been in every newspaper in the United States at that time. They were killed just a few months before that picture was taken, up the road in Northern Louisiana.”

His own characters are often bank-robbers, often on the run, but rarely as glamorous. They are sleazy schemers, wise-guy con-men, hapless hustlers dreaming of The Big Score, destined to betray one another but convinced that they’ve latched on to The Perfect Plan – like Chip Ganz’s plan of kidnapping a guy who’s made his money illegally in ‘Riding The Rap’ – which, admittedly does seem like a pretty good plan.

“Yeah but of course, they are criminals. And they are fuck-ups. They like the idea of thinking they’re fooling everyone, sure. It looks safer I suppose.”

In ‘Swag’, two armed robbers (Ernest Stickly Junior Frank Ryan team up with a set of ten rules they’re convinced is all they need to follow to be successful. (‘Never tell anybody what you do’, and so on.)

“They’re fairly successful for 100 days,” Leonard says. “Then they break one of their own rules. They get involved with some black guys from Detroit, who eat ‘em up, haha.”

Leonard loves to put different types together (different races, different types of criminal: different types of talker) then sit back to see what happens.

“You know from the time they look at one another that one is gonna end up shooting the other. ‘Killshot’ is a good example of that. A French Canadian/Ojibway Indian (The Blackbird) comes from Toronto to Detroit to shoot somebody and runs into this guy named Richie Nix, a young bank-robber who wants to rob a bank in every state in America except Alaska – ‘Fuck Alaska’, he says haha.”

Leonard’s non-judgmental attitude to such low-lifes has lead some critics to assume to feels some sort of sympathy for them, which he denies, saying that he simply grew tired of stories full of “sneering” bad guys who anyone could tell were criminals. What he doesn’t do is analyse why they turned bad (“that’s boring”).

These days, he has a researcher who sends him newspaper stories and then “does the legwork” once an idea is underway – digging round in libraries, scouting out locations, finding information about specific jails or casinos or courtrooms.

“He gets me an aerial photo, sends me something about the weather, stuff like that. He’ll find the best bails-bondsmen or homicide detective for me to talk to in the area I wanna write about. Then I go down and get to know him.”

He has people, policemen, in Florida or Detroit, he can call if he wants to check something – like “what guns are popular with hitmen right now.”

The ‘Hush Puppy’, a gun developed for culling seals, is one current favourite.
“It has a suppresser on it,” says Leonard calmly. “But also the slide on top doesn’t rack back to eject when it’s fired, so it’s absolutely silent.”

He has talked to criminals in the past for research but “not much though”.
“I hear from inmates, yeah. They wanna know if I’ve done time, if I’m black. Or both. They wanna know how I get into the way they think. I try to explain, ‘well it’s called imagination. I make it up.”

His reputation for realism is ironic given that, in many ways, what characters like Bobby Deo, Ritchie Nicks, even Raylan Givens, have in common is that they are fantasists. Like Chili Palmer in ‘Get Shorty’, the way they talk, the way they dress or the crimes their commit, is usually based on things they’ve seen in movies.

“My characters are all playing roles, yeah. All perhaps except the main character and he’ll notice this. And he’ll wonder: who is this guy playing ?’ After ‘Scarface’, all the Cuban guys on the street started talking like Pacino. You know, Tony Montana. ‘You fockin’ fock’, all the time.”

Elmore Leonard’s characters are always talking about movies, comparing things to movies, and, in ‘Get Shorty’, even dreaming of being IN movies. It’s all part of the “everyday” stuff that stamps Leonard’s style – like which Burger Bars or pop-corn they like; the stuff, as Tarantino put it, “that they talk about before they get their guns out.”

Tarantino’s “you know what they call a Quarter Pounder in Paris ?’ scene in ‘Pulp Fiction’ could have appeared in any one of Leonard’s books. In ‘Split Images’, for instance, a guy who is about to go out and shoot someone worries about what to wear (“the safari jacket with all the pockets ?”) – pure ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Tarantino has admitted “he helped me figure out my style.”

Leonard’s characters’ love of movies and movie-stars is probably the most personal part of Leonard’s books. His conversation is littered with studio gossip and movie-deals. (“For ‘Out of Sight’ I see Elizabeth Shue for the part,” he says. “They see Nicole Kidman”.)

The culmination of this was the plot for ‘Get Shorty’. Chili Palmer (Travolta), a movie-mad loan shark from Miami, comes to Hollywood to retrieve a bad debt from a B-movie producer, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), and ends up trying to invest a load of money a gambler, Leo Devoe, has ripped off from the Mob Chili works for.

Zimm is trying to sell a screenplay to Martin Weir, a mega-star method actor, who would rather play Chili in a movie about Chili’s attempt to retrieve the money the gambler ran away with in the first place.

There’s so much mobster/movie-star banter in the film some critics even suggested ‘Get Shorty’ was cashing in on ‘Pulp Fiction’, especially as it contains a reference to ‘Rio Bravo’, one of Tarantino’s favourite films/references.

“It’s in the book,” Leonard points out, for once sounding less genial, adding, in case anyone has missed the point. “And the book was written in 1989.”

Things were complicated further by the fact that Travolta originally turned ‘Get Shorty’ down (twice) because he felt too much of Leonard’s original dialogue and detail had been taken out. He only agreed to play Chili Palmer because Tarantino told him to.

Leonard’s brilliant parody of Hollywood focuses mainly on Weir (played by Danny de Vito) – a gloriously pretentious, narcissistic, notoriously SHORT, multi-million dollar star, who refuses to order from the menu in even the most prestigious Hollywood restaurant, and flits from one project to another on a whim.

Weir, it is widely believed, was originally inspired by Leonard’s meetings with Dustin Hoffman in the late 80s when Hoffman said he was interested in starring in Leonard’s ‘La Brava’.

Fact and fiction blurred further when De Vito, who originally intended to play the part of Chili Palmer himself, stepped down due to prior commitments. After suggesting Joe Pesci, the producers of ‘Get Shorty’ suggested (guess who ?) Dustin Hoffman for the part.

“I just thought, ‘well they keep getting shorter’,” Leonard smiles. When I was writing it, I pictured De Niro, Pacino, maybe Andy Garcia.”

As for the original Chili Palmer, you can spot him in the first scene as Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni’s sidekick.
“He says ‘That’s a good one Ray’,” Leonard laughs. “They made that up on the spot to give him something to say… Chili didn’t think Travolta was nearly tough enough. (Travolta plays it with sheer charm all the way.) His daughters didn’t either.”

This is hardly surprising. Chili was so tough he didn’t even bother with the “look at me” tactic Travolta uses on erring non-payers, “just sat there staring at them.”

He was once arrested in Miami for ‘strolling without a destination’.

You can’t help thinking the movie’s (enormous) success in the States and in Hollywood will only provide Leonard with more of precisely the same material he put in ‘Get Shorty’ in the first place. Certainly, if he’s not careful, Tarantino could end up going the same way as Hoffman did with Martin Weir.

“I made the mistake of asking Quentin why he liked ‘Rio Bravo’ so much,” Leonard mentions. “And he went on and on, opening with ‘You know…. I didn’t have a father’. I thought ‘oh-oh’.”

Tarantino owns the rights to ‘Killshot’, ‘Rum Punch’, ‘Bandits’ and ‘Riding the Rap’ but seem undecided what to do first.
“He said, ‘I’m going to China and as soon as I come back, I’ll come back and see you, and we’ll talk about,” Leonard says. “Well, he’s probably appeared in several movies since then.”

ELMORE LEONARD’S BOOKS are so perfect for Hollywood (great cop characters, witty, gritty dialogue, fabulous set-piece scenarios) all they would have to do, you would think, is film them as they were. And out of 33 books, he says “27 have been optioned or bought outright. 11 movies have been made from books, 3 from short stories and one original. Plus two for TV.”

But prior to ‘Get Shorty’, none of Leonard’s experiences there have been happy ones. Burt Reynolds directed, and destroyed ‘Stick’, as did Ryan O’Neal in ‘The Big Bounce’ (“the second worst movie ever-made”). For ‘Cat Chaser’, Leonard was given $ 20,000 to re-write the first 20 pages of the script but couldn’t stop and did the whole thing (“only 100 pages”). Even though he had written the book AND the script, the studio had their own ideas. Abel Ferrara once told me, “even I couldn’t understand it, and I directed it.”

“The only time I’d been on the set before ‘Get Shorty’ was for ‘The Moonshine War’, which I had written,” Leonard says. “My first feature. Patrick McGoohan at one point came off the set and walked up to me and said, ‘What’s it like to stand there and hear your lines all FUCKED UP ?”

Although the stars in the movie (Travolta, de Vito and Hoffman) are excellent, and obviously enjoying themselves thoroughly, it’s the casting of the minor parts which is really superb (the sign of a really great movie) – especially Rene Russo, Dennis Farina as
Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni and Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett, a movie-mad drug-dealer dreaming of laundering his ill-gotten gains in the same as Chili Palmer.

Bo has the best speech in ‘Get Shorty’ – putting the criminals’ (and by implication, Hollywood’s) view of what being the scriptwriter really entails.

“That’s what you do man, you put down one word after the other as it comes in your head…. You have the idea and you put down what you want to say. Then you get somebody to add in the commas and stuff, where they belong, if you aren’t positive yourself… I’ve seen scripts where I KNOW words weren’t spelled right and there was hardly any commas in it !”

Even in ‘Get Shorty’, the film is in too much of a hurry to get to the punch-line sometimes. Elmore doesn’t mind. He knows when he’s well off.
“Movies are about plot. How do you keep the thing moving ? The dialogue isn’t that important as far as entertainment is concerned.”

Strangely enough, for someone noted for the brilliant subtleties and shifts of his stories, ith his own books, the contrary applies. “Plot to me isn’t that important. It just gets the people together… After the first 100 pages, that’s when I have to stop and maybe do a little plotting. Once I get through that, we can see where it can go.”

His first, and most important, task is the characters’ names. Elmore Leonard has been known to spend days, even weeks, deciding whether to call a character Jack or Frank or Bob.

Sometimes, he says they “won’t talk” when they’re called Bob. Then, when he changes the name to Frank, he “can’t stop them”.

His notebook for ‘Out of Sight’ shows precisely the process he went through – deciding the names of banks in Florida; whether to spell Karen Sisco with a ‘C’ or an ‘S’.

Why didn’t you like ‘Ray Brady’ ? I say.
“I don’t know.”

Leonard considers himself fortunate in never having been influenced by any of crime-writing’s most feted heavyweights like
Chandler or Hammett. In fact, he says his major influence, particularly for the Westerns, was Hemingway – “because he made it look easy. You would see alot of white space on his pages because of the dialogue.”

Later on, he studied other writers “right down to the punctuation and paragraphing”. He acknowledges his debt to James M.Cain, and Ed McBain/Evan Hunter (“though neither are his real name”) but says it was George V. Higgins’ classic ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ that (crucially) inspired him to loosen his style, get into the scenes more directly and “use more obscenities.”

One of the trademarks of Leonard’s writing is the effortless way he writes each scene through different characters’ eyes, in language reflecting the character whose point of view we are seeing (as if they were talking).

As ever, Leonard’s mastery is in the detail. In ‘Riding The Rap’, Bobby ‘The Gardener’ Deo is always mentioning the hibiscus on the golf course, or the periwinkle in Chip Ganz’s shrubbery. Marshall Raylan Givens, who had a rural upbringing, mentions the plants HE would know from his background. While Louis Lewis from The Bahamas “just walks right through the shrubbery not saying anything.”

He says it took him 10-15 years to develop the style he has made his own, eventually removing himself from his books, his writing, so thoroughly, the Village Voice once gave him the Headline: The Author Vanishes. One of the few things to ruffle Leonard’s benign demeanour is talking about crime novelists and screenwriters who over-write – like the bits in screenplays “where you get what the character can see out the window – like a sunset. You know, where the writer really WRITES. And who’s going to read it ? The producer !”

He believes most writes describe their characters “WAY too much.”
‘He had wide-set eyes and a square jaw’. Well, so what ? You don’t wanna ruin the reader’s image of a character. I don’t want the reader ever to be aware of me, writing.”

If adjectives in an Elmore Leonard are sparing, adverbs are almost non-existent.

You hardly ever use adverbs I say (anxiously).
“That’s a sin,” he smiles (simply). “That’s a mortal sin. If you’ve developed your character adequately, then the way the character speaks should be apparent. I used all my adverbs up when I was writing car catalogues for Chevrolet.”

Instead, on almost any page of any book, the dialogue will be interspersed with ‘he said’, ‘he said’, all the way down the page.

“In fact, I’ll use ‘he said’ twice in the same line,” he says.
“For the beats. When you start using adverbs especially, you’re WRITING. Saying ‘this is being written’.”

These days, he finds his work and his writing being embraced by all sorts of literati. ‘The New Yorker’ has hailed the way “book by book, Elmore Leonard is painting an intimate, precise, funny, frightening and irresistible mural of the American underworld”.

And Martin Amis (“my new champion”) called him – with typically un-Leonard-like hyperbole – “perhaps the greatest popular writer of all time”.

Typically, Leonard downplays the literary quality to his work. He has no qualms about accepting he is basically writing the same book each time and says, “I probably only have two main characters – the male leads – and I just change their names… I developed my own style, knowing that as an ‘omniscient’ author, it’s going to be mediocre at best, in my words. I don’t have that many words. My people have their own words.”

Have you got any interest in doing The Big Book ? I ask him (stupidly).
“No. I don’t like big books,” he chuckles. “I haven’t gotten all the way through one of Martin Amis’s books. I’ve got to page 30 of ‘Crime & Punishment’ three times. Too many words.”

When the New York Times ring him to ask him to review a book for them, he comes right out with it
“I just say, how many pages has it got ?”

FOR HIS NEXT BOOK, Elmore Leonard is thinking of doing another Chili Palmer novel, not something he would normally do, he explains, but MGM, who bought the rights to the character when they bought ‘Get Shorty’, want him to.

“Chili’s my kind of guy – because he can go either way. I’m thinking about getting him into the fashion industry. That fascinates me.”

One idea he won’t be using is the suggestion he could write a book about Arab extremists (“they’re not funny”) or characters from the oriental Mafia.
“I can’t. I gotta make ‘em talk. Whadda they say ? ”

He is 70 now and, he admits, surprised he is still going.
“But I quit drinking 19 years ago and that helped.”

In 1977, on January 24th in at 9.30am, Elmore Leonard sat down and drank his last drink. He had been drinking every day for 36 years. Unlike alot of crime writers who went for the whole hard-drinking down-on-his-luck Chandler thing, Leonard, typically, talks down the extent of his drinking.

“I wasn’t real bad,” he says, “but I was alcoholic. I AM alcoholic. If I was to start drinking again, I would go all the way, I’m confident of that. You don’t learn how to do it all over again. You’re right back where you left off.”

In ‘Freaky Deaky, he describes the horribly familiar ritual of anyone who drinks as much, or as often, as he did.
“Being sick was part of waking up. Cleaning up a bathroom that looked like somebody had been killing chickens in it.”

He surprises me by smiling and says, “drinking was always fun. Until the end, when I had to have it. In AA, you don’t delve into why you drink, not at all, no. But I think, originally, I drank for a macho reason. I liked the guys that drank. I had more fun with them than the guys who didn’t drink.”

I like girls who drink myself, I tell him.
“Who doesn’t !?” he says, before – for once – repeating himself. “Who doesn’t ?”