Shrimp and Grits Helped Seal Deal for Elmore Leonard Collection

UniversitySouthCarolinaLogoAll five of late novelist Elmore Leonard’s children are in Columbia, South Carolina today together with Otto Penzler, owner of New York City’s Mysterious Book Shop and several other invited guests. The occasion? The announcement by the University of South Carolina that it has acquired a large collection of Leonard’s papers and personal items.

Detroit News reporter Susan Whitall has a colorful account of how and why the Detroit-indebted Leonard chose this Southern institution over the University of Michigan. The collection includes a number of items the university is referring to as “realia” (typewriters, desk, Hawaiian shirts, etc.) and will reside alongside another collection connecting to a formative Leonard influence:

At one point in May 2013 [during Leonard’s one and only visit to the University of South Carolina], gingerly holding a Hemingway first edition, Elmore told son Peter how he used to rewrite Hemingway stories “the way I’d want to do it,” with more of the humor he felt was lacking in his hero’s prose.

Just touching the Hemingway papers seemed to have an effect on the author. “My father was usually a pretty low-key guy, but I could see that all of this moved him,” Peter says.

Per Whitall, the school’s dean of libraries and others who had dinner with Leonard last spring plan to recreate the experience next Tuesday, in honor of his memory and the acquisition of the collection. Read the rest of her article here.