The passing this week of Michigan icon Elmore Leonard prompts a fond recollection of the pleasures of his many fine works. For Michigan lawyers, it also evokes the surprise of encountering a colorful character named Avern Cohn in Leonard's novel Mr. Paradise. Here's the explanation, from a 2004 letter to the editor of the New York Times:
Regarding Ann Beattie's review of Elmore Leonard's novel ''Mr. Paradise,'' which features a corrupt lawyer named Avern Cohn, Norm Gottlieb wrote, ''Beattie, being a professor of literature at the University of Virginia, would have no way of knowing that Avern Cohn is a universally respected judge at Elmore Leonard's hometown United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan'' (Letters, Feb. 22). In fact, Judge Cohn was the winning bidder in a Michigan Opera Theater charity auction for the privilege of having his name used in a Leonard novel. It seems that neither Beattie nor Gottlieb was in on the joke.