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Elmore Leonard

Born October 11, 1925 (1925-10-11) (age 84)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation author, screenwriter
Genres Pulp fiction, Westerns, crime fiction

Elmore John Leonard, Jr. (born October 11, 1925) is an American novelist and screenwriter.

His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, and Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, several of which have been adapted into successful motion pictures or TV movies.



Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but since 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, Michigan. Leonard has made the Detroit area his home ever since.

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 to 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were on a rampage; they were killed in May 1934. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 1934. Leonard turned these events into lifelong fascinations with both sports and guns.

Leonard 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. In 1946 he enrolled at the University of Detroit, where he pursued writing more seriously, entering his work in short story contests and sending it off to magazines. 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 as he wrote on the side. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in English and Philosophy.

Leonard had his first success in 1951 when Argosy published the short story "Trail of the Apaches".[2] During the 1950s and early 1960s, he continued writing westerns, publishing over 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 this time, The Tall T and 3:10 to Yuma.

Leonard—or "Dutch," as he is sometimes called—got his first break in the fiction market during the 1950s, regularly publishing pulp western novels. He has since forayed into mystery, crime, and more topical genres, as well as screenwriting.

Leonard now lives with his family in Oakland County, Michigan.

Writing style

He has been commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue. His writing style sometimes takes liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding along the story. In his essay, "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing," he writes, "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." His advice to writers also includes the hint, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."[3]

Leonard has been called "the Dickens of Detroit" because of his intimate portraits of people from that city. Leonard's ear for dialogue and ability to render same on the printed page are considered by some admirers to be uncanny and have 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.[4]

Film work

Aside from the short stories already noted, a number of Leonard's novels have been adapted as films, including Out of Sight, Get Shorty in 1995, and Rum Punch (as the 1997 film Jackie Brown). He has also written several screenplays based on his novels, plus original ones such as Joe Kidd.

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

His short story "Three-Ten to Yuma" and novel The Big Bounce have each been filmed twice.

Other novels filmed include: Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson), Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster), 52 Pick-Up (Roy Scheider), Stick (Burt Reynolds), The Moonshine War (Alan Alda), Last Stand at Saber River (Tom Selleck), Gold Coast (David Caruso), Glitz (Jimmy Smits), Cat Chaser (Peter Weller), Touch (Christopher Walken), Pronto (Peter Falk) Be Cool (John Travolta), and Killshot (Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke). Freaky Deaky is scheduled for release in 2010.

The TV series Karen Sisco (2003-04) starring Carla Gugino was based on a character from Out of Sight played by Jennifer Lopez.

The 2010 FX series Justified is based around the popular Leonard character U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens from the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap and the short story "Fire in the Hole."

A 2001 comedy film, Bandits, was originally meant to be an adaptation of Leonard's novel by that name, to which Bruce Willis owns the film rights. However, the producers brought in writer Harley Peyton to write a new script from scratch that bears little or no resemblance to Leonard's book.

Leonard was referenced in the television show Leverage in episode 105 "The Bank Shot Job" when Aldis Hodge as Alec Hardison and Beth Riesgraf as Parker introduced themselves to police officers as FBI agents Leonard and Elmore.




  • The Bounty Hunters (1953)
  • The Law at Randado (1954)
  • Escape from Five Shadows (1956)
  • Last Stand at Saber River (1959) – also 1997 TV movie
  • Hombre (1961) – also 1967 film
  • The Big Bounce (1969) – also 1969 film and 2004 film
  • The Moonshine War (1969) – also 1970 film
  • Valdez Is Coming (1970) – also 1971 film
  • Forty Lashes Less One (1972)
  • Mr. Majestyk (1974) – also 1974 film
  • Fifty-Two Pickup (1974) – also 1986 film
  • Swag (1976)
  • Unknown Man No. 89 (1977)
  • The Hunted (1977)
  • The Switch (1978)
  • Gunsights (1979)
  • City Primeval (1980)
  • Gold Coast (1980) – also 1997 TV film
  • Split Images (1981) – also 1992 TV movie
  • Cat Chaser (1982) – also 1989 film
  • Stick (1983) – also 1985 film
  • LaBrava (1983) – Edgar Award, Best Novel (1984)
  • Glitz (1985) - also 1988 TV film
  • Bandits (1987)
  • Touch (1987) – also 1997 film
  • Freaky Deaky (1988)
  • Killshot (1989) - also 2008 film
  • Get Shorty (1990) – also 1995 film
  • Maximum Bob (1991) – also 1998 TV series
  • Rum Punch (1992) – also 1997 film Jackie Brown
  • Pronto (1993) – also 1997 TV film
  • Riding the Rap (1995)
  • Out of Sight (1996) – also 1998 film and 2003 TV series Karen Sisco
  • Naked Came the Manatee (1996) (One chapter of serial novel)
  • Cuba Libre (1998)
  • Tonto Woman (1998) -- Western anthology
  • Be Cool (1999) – also 2005 film
  • Pagan Babies (2000)
  • Fire in the Hole (2001)
  • When the Women Come Out to Dance (2002) - Anthology (includes Fire in the Hole)
  • Tishomingo Blues (2002)
  • A Coyote's in the House (2003)
  • Mr. Paradise (2004)
  • The Hot Kid (2005)
  • Comfort to the Enemy (2006) - Published serially in New York Times (Chapters can be downloaded at
  • Up in Honey's Room (2007)
  • Road Dogs (2009)



Short stories turned into films:

Also wrote a short story in the anthology Murderers' Row edited by Otto Penzler (2001) (back story for Tishomingo Blues)


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


Leonard was the recipient of the 2006 Louisiana Writer Award.

In October 2008 Leonard received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature during the 13th Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference held at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Challen, Paul (2000). Get Dutch! A Biography of Elmore Leonard, p. 29. ECW Press. ISBN 1550224220.
  3. ^ Leonard, Elmore, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle", in Smiley, Jane, et al. (2004), Writers on Writing, Vol. II, p. 145. Macmillan. ISBN 0805075887.
  4. ^ ."Martin Amis Interviews Elmore Leonard at the Writers Guild Theatre, Beverly Hills, January 23, 1998" <

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Elmore John Leonard, Jr. (born October 11, 1925) is a popular and acclaimed American novelist and screenwriter.


  • For a long time I've been walking down life's road with my two pals, Bad Luck and Bad Choices. Fortunately I'm a big believer in new beginnings, new friends, and running from my problems. So one day I decided to head for the island. Aloha, my name is Jack.
  • If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
    • Newsweek (April 22, 1985)
  • I leave out the parts that people skip.
    • When asked about the popularity of his detective novels, quoted by William Zinsser, A Family of Readers Book-of-the-Month Club (1986)
    • Variant: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
      • "Making It Up as I Go Along", AARP Magazine 52 (4A), July/August 2009
  • What do you tell a man with two black eyes? Nothing, he's already been told twice.
    • Darryl, Be Cool (1999)
  • My grandson, Max, who is an all state lacrosse player, once gave me some lacrosse advice: A limp pass is like a limp dick; it doesn't get the job done. I think the same can be said about limp writing.
    • Elmore's Ten Rules of Writing (2007)
  • After 58 years you'd think writing would get easier. It doesn't. If you're lucky, you become harder to please. That's all right, it's still a pleasure.
    • "Making It Up as I Go Along", AARP Magazine 52 (4A), July/August 2009

Out Of Sight (1996)

  • Well, the man don't just have to die, Foley. I mean, he could accidentally hurt himself falling down on something real hard, you know? Like a shiv, or my dick?
    • Maurice "Snoopy" Miller,
  • It's like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there's this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person's gone, and it's too late to do anything about it.
    • Jack Foley
  • I know a guy who walks into a bank with a little glass bottle. He tells everyone it's nitroglycerin. He scores some money off the teller, walks out. On his way out, the bottle breaks, he slips on it and knocks himself out. The "nitro" was Canola oil. I know more fucked-up bank robbers than ones who know what they're doing. I doubt if one in twenty could tell you where the dye pack is. Most bank robbers are fucking morons.
    • Jack Foley

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