PAINTING IT BLACK: REMEMBERING LES EDGERTON
"The thing I love the most is writing. Second, talking about writing."- Les Edgerton
When I heard Les Edgerton passed last week, it hit me hard. Not only had he become a friend, but he seemed too damned tough to die. Les survived gunfire, prison, and more than a few bad life choices. The first part of his life was a lost of mistakes that created crime fiction that held few if any.
Much of that life is chronicled in his highly entertaining memoir Adrenaline Junkie, told in a voice that makes you feel you just sat next to the most interesting guy at the bar. He grew up in a Texas, did a stint in the Navy that got him close to The Cuban Missile Crisis, fell into a criminal life that lead to a prison stretch. There, he learned hairstyling and when he got out, he went into business, earning a lot of money and fame in the salon industry which proved to be as wild and dangerous as his criminal one. A few situations forced him to take stock of life and pursue what he always wanted to be- a writer.
Those experiences informed his writing that he pulled no punches in. His novel The Rapist is one of the bleakest character studies put to paper. Even his caper novel The Genuine Imitation Plastic Kidnapping, about a group of losers who attempt to ransom the hand of a New Orleans gangster, never leaves the grimy underworld it operates in. A favorite of mine, The Bitch, Les pulls from much of his life. He takes the classic noir set up with a married salon owner who is drawn into a crime due to his obligation to an old cellmate. He was able to bring authentic feel to the story as everything spun out of the hero's control. Les always found the spots of humanity, no matter how the dark the tale was. He would say, "When you paint it black, light will shine through."
He was also a great teacher. I had the pleasure of being invited to a writer's retreat/workshop and watch him work, as well as room with him. He even looked over my writing. While he pointed out the weakness' (or as he said "crapped on it"), he also knew a writer needed to know the strengths they had to lean on. You can get some of his ideas from his books Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Them At Page One And Never Lets Them Go and .Finding Your Voice.
I also remembered how much he laughed when I told him having an ex-con as room mate is great, cause he stayed in his side of the room and gave me space. He agreed as well.
Les could offend people, particularly those who just met him. He often said things that raised eyebrows. It wasn''t out of being mean or shock value. Like his writing, Les wanted to get down to it and engage. He will be a voice many hip noir fans will miss. Us that knew him will miss our friend.
-by Scott Montgomery