Elmore Leonard: American novelist and screenwriter (1925 - 2013)
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Elmore Leonard
American novelist and screenwriter

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American novelist and screenwriter
A.K.A. Dutch Leonard, Elmore John Leonard Jr.
Was Writer Screenwriter Novelist Film producer Author
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 11 October 1925, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, U.S.A.
Death 20 August 2013, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, U.S.A. (aged 87 years)
Residence Michigan, Louisiana
The details (from wikipedia)


Elmore John Leonard Jr. (October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013) was an American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. His earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but he went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures.

Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Swag, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, and Rum Punch (adapted for the movie Jackie Brown). Leonard's writings include short stories that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the FX television series Justified.

Early life and education

Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Flora Amelia (née Rive) and Elmore John Leonard, Sr. Because his father worked as a site locator for General Motors, the family moved frequently for several years. In 1934, the family settled in Detroit.

He graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943 and, after being rejected for the Marines for weak eyesight, immediately joined the Navy, where he served with the Seabees for three years in the South Pacific (gaining the nickname "Dutch", after pitcher Dutch Leonard). Enrolling at the University of Detroit in 1946, he pursued writing more seriously, entering his work in short story contests and sending it off to magazines. He graduated in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in English and philosophy. A year before he graduated, he got a job as a copy writer with Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency, a position he kept for several years, writing on the side.


Leonard got his first break in the fiction market during the 1950s, regularly publishing pulp Western novels. Leonard had his first success in 1951 when Argosy published the short story "Trail of the Apaches". During the 1950s and early 1960s, he continued writing Westerns, publishing more than 30 short stories. He wrote his first novel, The Bounty Hunters, in 1953 and followed this with four other novels. Five of his westerns were turned into major movies before 1972: The Tall T (Richard Boone), 3:10 to Yuma (Glenn Ford), Hombre (Paul Newman), Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster), and Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood).

He went on to write seventeen novels and stories in the mystery, crime, and more topical genres which were made into movies between 1969 and 2013.

In 1985, his breakout novel, Glitz was published. At the time of his death he had sold tens of millions of copies of his novels.

Among his later movies are Jackie Brown (starring Pam Grier, directed by Quentin Tarantino) which is a "homage to the author’s trademark rhythm and pace"; Get Shorty (1995, John Travolta and Gene Hackman); and Out of Sight (1999, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, directed by Steven Soderbergh).

Personal life

He married Beverly Clare Cline in 1949, and they had five children together—three daughters and two sons—before divorcing in 1977. His second marriage in 1979, to Joan Leanne Lancaster (aka Joan Shepard), ended with her death in 1993. Later that same year, he married Christine Kent, and they divorced in 2012.

Leonard spent the last years of his life with his family in Oakland County, Michigan. He suffered a stroke on July 29, 2013. Initial reports stated that Leonard was recovering, but on August 20, 2013, Leonard died at his home in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills of stroke complications. He was 87 years old. Leonard is survived by his five children, 13 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Writing style

Commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue, Leonard sometimes took liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding the story along. In his essay "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing" he said: "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." He also hinted: "I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip."

Elmore Leonard has been called "the Dickens of Detroit" because of his intimate portraits of people from that city, though he said, "If I lived in Buffalo, I'd write about Buffalo." His favourite epithet was one given by Britain's New Musical Express: "the poet laureate of wild assholes with revolvers". His ear for dialogue has been praised by writers such as Saul Bellow, Martin Amis, and Stephen King. "Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy," Amis told Leonard at a Writers Guild event in Beverly Hills in 1998. Stephen King has called him "the great American writer." According to Charles Rzepka of Boston University, Leonard's mastery of free indirect discourse, a third-person narrative technique that gives the illusion of immediate access to a character's thoughts, "is unsurpassed in our time, and among the surest of all time, even if we include Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, and Hemingway in the mix."

Leonard often cited Ernest Hemingway as perhaps his single most important influence, but at the same time criticized Hemingway for his lack of humor and for taking himself too seriously. Still, it was Leonard's affection for Hemingway, as well as George V. Higgins, that led him to will his personal papers to the University of South Carolina, where many of Hemingway's and Higgins' papers are archived. Leonard's papers reside at the university's Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Awards and honors

  • 1984 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel of 1983 for La Brava.
  • 1992 Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Mystery Writers of America
  • 2008 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature; received during the 13th Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference held at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, United States.
  • 2010 Peabody Award, FX's Justified
  • 2012 National Book Award, Medal for Distinguished Contribution



Year Novel Film adaptation ISBN
1953 The Bounty Hunters ISBN 0-380-82225-3
1954 Law at Randado 1990 – Border Shootout ISBN 0-062-28950-0
1956 Escape from Five Shadows ISBN 0-060-01348-6
1959 Last Stand at Saber River 1997 – Last Stand at Saber River ISBN 0-062-28948-9
1961 Hombre 1967 – Hombre ISBN 0-062-20611-7
1969 The Big Bounce 1969 – The Big Bounce
2004 – The Big Bounce
ISBN 0-062-18428-8
The Moonshine War 1970 – The Moonshine War ISBN 0-062-20898-5
1970 Valdez Is Coming 1971 – Valdez Is Coming ISBN 0-062-22785-8
1972 Forty Lashes Less One ISBN 0-062-28949-7
1974 Mr. Majestyk 1974 – Mr. Majestyk ISBN 0-062-18840-2
52 Pick-Up 1984 – The Ambassador
1986 – 52 Pick-Up
ISBN 0-753-81962-7
1976 Swag ISBN 0-062-22786-6
1977 Unknown Man No. 89 ISBN 0-062-18928-X
The Hunted ISBN 0-062-18841-0
1978 The Switch 2013 – Life of Crime ISBN 0-062-20613-3
1979 Gunsights ISBN 0-062-26726-4
1980 City Primeval ISBN 0-062-19135-7
Gold Coast 1997 – TV movie ISBN 0-062-20609-5
1981 Split Images 1992 – TV movie ISBN 0-688-16971-6
1982 Cat Chaser 1989 – Cat Chaser ISBN 0-060-51222-9
1983 Stick 1985 – Stick ISBN 0-062-18435-0
Edgar Award, Best Novel (1984)
ISBN 0-062-22788-2
1985 Glitz 1988 – TV movie ISBN 0-062-12158-8
1987 Bandits ISBN 0-062-12032-8
Touch 1997 – Touch ISBN 0-062-26598-9
1988 Freaky Deaky 2012 – Freaky Deaky ISBN 0-062-12035-2
1989 Killshot 2009 – Killshot ISBN 0-688-16638-5
1990 Get Shorty 1995 – Get Shorty
2017 - Get Shorty
ISBN 0-062-12025-5
1991 Maximum Bob 1998 – TV series Maximum Bob ISBN 0-062-00940-0
1992 Rum Punch 1997 – Jackie Brown ISBN 0-062-11982-6
1993 Pronto 1997 – TV movie
2010 – TV series Justified
ISBN 0-062-12033-6
1995 Riding the Rap 2010 – TV series Justified ISBN 0-062-02029-3
1996 Out of Sight 1998 – Out of Sight
2003 – TV series Karen Sisco
ISBN 0-061-74031-4
Naked Came the Manatee
(One chapter of serial novel)
ISBN 0-449-00124-5
1998 Cuba Libre ISBN 0-062-18429-6
Tonto Woman
(One chapter of serial novel)
2007 – Academy Awards nominated Live Action Short ISBN 0-385-32387-5
1999 Be Cool 2005 – Be Cool ISBN 0-060-77706-0
2000 Pagan Babies ISBN 0-062-26601-2
2001 Fire in the Hole 2010 – TV series Justified ISBN 0-062-12034-4
2002 When the Women Come Out to Dance
Anthology (includes Fire in the Hole)
ISBN 0-060-58616-8
Tishomingo Blues ISBN 0-062-00939-7
2004 A Coyote's in the House ISBN 0-141-31688-8
2004 Mr. Paradise ISBN 0-060-59807-7
2005 The Hot Kid ISBN 0-060-72423-4
2006 Comfort to the Enemy
Published serially in New York Times
ISBN 0-061-73515-9
2007 Up in Honey's Room ISBN 0-060-72426-9
2009 Road Dogs ISBN 0-061-98570-8
2010 Djibouti ISBN 0-062-00831-5
2012 Raylan 2010 – TV series Justified ISBN 0-062-11947-8


Year Title Director Co-writers
1970 The Moonshine War Richard Quine
1972 Joe Kidd John Sturges
1974 Mr. Majestyk Richard Fleischer
1980 High Noon, Part II (TV) Jerry Jameson
1985 Stick Burt Reynolds Joseph Stinson
1986 52 Pick-Up John Frankenheimer John Steppling
1987 The Rosary Murders Fred Walton William X. Kienzle & Fred Walton
Desperado (TV Movie) Virgil W. Vogel
1989 Cat Chaser Abel Ferrara James Borelli


Year Story Film adaptation
1953 "Three-Ten to Yuma" 1957 – 3:10 to Yuma
2007 – 3:10 to Yuma
1955 The Captives 1957 – The Tall T
2004 The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

Leonard also wrote a short story included in the anthology Murderers' Row: Original Baseball Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler (2001). (Leonard's is the back story for his novel Tishomingo Blues (2002).)


  • 10 Rules of Writing (2007)
  • Foreword to Walter Mirisch's book I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History


Twenty-six of Leonard's novels and short stories have been adapted for the screen (19 as motion pictures and another seven as television programs).


Aside from the short stories already noted, a number of Leonard's novels have been adapted as films, including Get Shorty (1990 novel, 1995 film), Out of Sight (1996 novel, 1998 film), and Rum Punch (1992 novel, 1997 film Jackie Brown). 52 Pick-Up (1986 film) was first adapted very loosely into the 1984 film The Ambassador (1984), starring Robert Mitchum and, two years later, under its original title starring Roy Scheider. Leonard has also written several screenplays based on his novels, plus original screenplays such as Joe Kidd (1972).

The film Hombre (1967), starring Paul Newman, was an adaptation of Leonard's 1961 novel of the same name.

His short story "Three-Ten to Yuma" (March 1953) and novels The Big Bounce (1969) and 52 Pick-Up have each been filmed twice.

Other novels filmed include:

  • Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson)
  • Valdez Is Coming (with Burt Lancaster)
  • 52 Pick-Up (with Roy Scheider)
  • Stick (with Burt Reynolds)
  • The Moonshine War (with Alan Alda)
  • Last Stand at Saber River (with Tom Selleck)
  • Gold Coast (with David Caruso)
  • Glitz (with Jimmy Smits)
  • Cat Chaser (with Peter Weller)
  • Out of Sight (George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez)
  • Touch (with Christopher Walken)
  • Pronto (with Peter Falk)
  • Be Cool (with John Travolta)
  • Killshot (Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke).
  • Get Shorty (with John Travolta)
  • Life of Crime (with Jennifer Aniston) (based on The Switch)

Quentin Tarantino has optioned the right to adapt Leonard's novel Forty Lashes Less One (1972).


  • In 1992, Leonard played himself in a script he wrote and, with actor Paul Lazar dramatizing a scene from the novel Swag, appeared in a humorous television short about his writing process which aired on the Byline Showtime series on Showtime Networks.
  • The 2010-15 FX series Justified was based around the popular Leonard character U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, from the novels Pronto, Riding the Rap, the eponymous Raylan, and the short story "Fire in the Hole".
  • The short-lived 1998 TV series Maximum Bob was based on Leonard's 1991 novel of the same name. It aired on ABC for seven episodes and starred Beau Bridges.
  • The TV series Karen Sisco (2003–04) starring Carla Gugino was based on the U.S. Marshall character from the film Out of Sight (1998) played by Jennifer Lopez.
  • The 2017 Epix series Get Shorty is based on the novel of the same.
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