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Favourite US Author ‘Elmore Leonard’ Dead at 87

Posted: August 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: ART, Author, Elmore Leonard | Tags: , | Comments Off on Favourite US Author ‘Elmore Leonard’ Dead at 87

Elmore Leonard, Miami Book Fair International, 1989

American crime writer Elmore Leonard, whose novels about blokes, broads and blunt lines, inspiring Hollywood movies including the superlative 310 To Yuma,  Out of Sight, Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, has died at his home aged 87.

A statement on the writers official website said Leonard passed away “at home surrounded by his loving family”. Leonard had suffered a stroke earlier this month. The genre master’s 45 gritty novels attracted a wide audience over more than five decades ::::

In 2012, the National Book Federation awarded Mr Leonard its lifetime achievement award. As well as a prolific novelist, Leonard penned 9 screenplays including Mr. Majestic and the 80s classic 52 Pick-up.

Leonard’s best-known works were set in the grimy underworld of cities like Detroit and Miami, starring cops, crooks, hitmen and less-than-helpless women, his words are studded with richly varied notions of right and wrong.

Leonard once noted his books “aren’t exactly plot-driven. They’re about people, with guns, in dire situations.”

Known by the nickname Dutch, Leonard had his commercial breakthrough in 1985 with the publication of Glitz.

His following books, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Killshot, Bandits, and Freaky Deaky, came out every year-and-a-half or so and were best-sellers.

Leonard’s 46th book, Blue Dreams, was expected to be published this year.

Get Shorty and Out of Sight were made into films. Among other films inspired by Leonard’s work are the Paul Newman western Hombre and Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which is based on the novel Rum Punch.

He also worked as executive producer on the television series Justified.

Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing

1. Never open a book with weather.
If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character — the one whose view best brings the scene to life — I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Gritty Style!

Commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue, Leonard often took liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding along a story.

Leonard has been called “the Dickens of Detroit” because of his intimate portraits of people from that city; however, Leonard has said, “If I lived inBuffalo, I’d write about Buffalo.”

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.”

Leonard often cited Ernest Hemingway as one of his most important influences, and at the same time criticized Hemingway for lack of humour.

The National Book Foundation awarded its 2012 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Leonard last November.

“For a half-century, Elmore Leonard has produced vibrant literary work with an inimitable writing style,” the foundation’s executive director Harold Augenbraum said.

In presenting the award, the British novelist Martin Amis channelled Leonard’s famed succinctness by describing him in sum as “a literary genius who writes re-readable thrillers.”

The author was born on October 11 1925 in New Orleans. His father worked as an executive for General Motors and the family moved several times, eventually settling in Detroit in 1934.

Leonard served in a naval construction battalion during World War II and then went to work at an advertising agency in 1949. During that time he began writing Western novels and short stories in his free time.

He quit the ad agency job to write full-time in 1961 and eventually moved into crime writing as popular television westerns swept up the market for cowboy yarns.

After suffering a stroke late last month, Leonard passed away at 7:15am local time at his home near Detroit, his official website said. The author married three times and is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

All but three of Leonard’s novels have been performed as audiobooks – the exceptions being Escape From Five Shadows, Hombre, and La Brava.  Many Leonard works (including The Big BounceBe Cool and The Tonto Woman) have been recorded more than once resulting in more than 70 English-language audiobook versions of Leonard novels.

Many of these were abridgements, the last of which was Pagan Babies – 2000 – read by Steve Buscemi. Certain narrators have dominated the Elmore Leonard oeuvre, notably Frank Muller, Mark Hammer, Henry Rollins, Joe Mantegna  and Barbara Rosenblatt, the only female narrator of an Leonard work , When the Women Come Out to Dance.

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Early Life

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 finally settled in Detroit, where Leonard spent his entire life.

In the 1930s, two major events occurred that would influence many of his works. Gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde were making national headlines, as were the Detroit Tigers baseball team. From about 1931 until they were killed in May 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were on a rampage. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 1934, winning the Series in 1935. Leonard developed lifelong fascinations with both sports and guns.

He graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943 and 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 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—or “Dutch,” as he often preferred to be called—got his first break in the fiction market during the 1950s, regularly publishing pulp Western novels. He went on to write in the mystery, crime, and more topical genres, as well as screenwriting.

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. Two of his stories were turned into movies at that time: The Tall T and 3:10 to Yuma.

Works: Novels

Year Novel
1953 The Bounty Hunters
1954 The Law at Randado
1956 Escape from Five Shadows
1959 Last Stand at Saber River
1961 Hombre
1969 The Big Bounce
The Moonshine War
1970 Valdez Is Coming
1972 Forty Lashes Less One
1974 Mr. Majestyk
52 Pick-Up
1976 Swag
1977 Unknown Man No. 89
The Hunted
1978 The Switch
1979 Gunsights
1980 City Primeval
Gold Coast
1981 Split Images
1982 Cat Chaser
1983 Stick
1985 Glitz
1987 Bandits
1988 Freaky Deaky
1989 Killshot
1990 Get Shorty
1991 Maximum Bob
1992 Rum Punch
1993 Pronto
1995 Riding the Rap
1996 Out of Sight
Naked Came the Manatee
1998 Cuba Libre
Tonto Woman
1999 Be Cool
2000 Pagan Babies
2001 Fire in the Hole
2002 When the Women Come Out to Dance
Tishomingo Blues
2004 A Coyote’s in the House
2004 Mr. Paradise
2005 The Hot Kid
2006 Comfort to the Enemy
2007 Up in Honey’s Room
2009 Road Dogs
2010 Djibouti
2012 Raylan


Year Title
1970 The Moonshine War
1972 Joe Kidd
1974 Mr. Majestyk
1980 High Noon, Part II (TV)
1985 Stick
1986 52 Pick-Up
1987 The Rosary Murders
Desperado (TV series)
1989 Cat Chaser


Year Story
1953 Three-Ten to Yuma
1955 The Captives
2004 The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard


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


  • 1992 Grand Master Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America
  • 2006 Louisiana Writer Award
  • 2008 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature
  • 2011 Peabody Award, FX’s “Justified”
  • 2012 National Book Award, Medal for Distinguished Contribution


source: afp
source: elmoreleonard
source: freep
source: wikipedia