Elmore John Leonard Jr. (born October 11, 1925), better known as Elmore Leonard, is an American novelist and screenwriter. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard 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, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk and Rum Punch, which was filmed as Jackie Brown. Leonard's short stories include ones that became the films 10 to Yuma and The Tall T.
Leonard was born in New Orleans, but 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. 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 until they were killed in May, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were on a rampage. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 1934. 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. 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. 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 and 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". 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 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.
Commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue, Leonard sometimes takes liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding along the story. In his essay "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing" he says: "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." He also hints: "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."
Elmore Leonard has been called "the Dickens of Detroit" because of his intimate portraits of people from that city [by whom?]. His 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.."Martin Amis Interviews Elmore Leonard at the Writers Guild Theatre, Beverly Hills, January 23, 1998" .Stephen King has called him "the great American writer."
Many of Leonard's novels and short stories have been adapted into successful motion pictures or TV movies.
Aside from the short stories already noted, a number of Leonard's novels have been adapted as films, including Out of Sight in 1998, Get Shorty in 1995, and Rum Punch (as the 1997 film Jackie Brown). 52 Pick-Up was first adapted very loosely into the 1984 film The Ambassador, starring Robert Mitchum and two years later, under its original title, starring Roy Scheider. 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 novels The Big Bounce and 52 Pick-Up have each been filmed twice.
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.
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)
Touch (with Christopher Walken)
Pronto (with Peter Falk)
Be Cool (with John Travolta)
Killshot (Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke).
Freaky Deaky is scheduled to be filmed in 2011.
The TV series Karen Sisco (2003—04) starring Carla Gugino was based on a character from Out of Sight played by Jennifer Lopez in the film version.
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."
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.
In 1992 Leonard received a Grand Master Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America
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.