Elmore Leonard the award winning creator of such iconic crime novels as Maximum Bob, Mr Majestyk, and Get Shorty died on Tuesday morning from complications that arose from a stroke that he had suffered last month. He was 87.
Elmore John Leonard Jr. was born on October 11, 1925. He began his writing career in the western genre publishing seven “traditional” westerns in all. His first western, The Bounty Hunters was published in 1953. Setting a tradition that would continue throughout his career as a novelist, four of his western novels were adapted as films. One of which was his 1970 book Valdez is coming which was made into a film in 1971 starring Burt Lancaster.
Leonard’s 1993 novel Pronto was a “modern” western that featured Raylan Givens a “cowboy” US Marshall and ex-marine, the book was made into a 1997 television film and became the basis (along with Ride the Rap and the short story Fire in the Hole) for the 2010 FX series Justified starring Timothy Olyphant.
He began writing crime fiction in 1969 with his novel The Big Bounce. In 1974 he wrote Mr Majestyk which was adapted into the film of the same name starring screen tough-guy Charles Bronson.
Elmore Leonard had a ear for dialogue and he was one of the few authors to be able to write convincing and natural sounding dialogue between characters in his books. The horror novelist Stephen King held Leonard in very high regard in this area and cited Leonard’s ability in the non-fiction books, Danse Macabre and his recent On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. The writer of iconic crime novels was in a league all his own and his death robs the world of a true genius in literature.
The 87 year-old crime writer was brought to the public’s attention more recently because of his involvement with the award winning FX series Justified.
The novelist adapted some of his novels into screenplays and these included Mr Majestyk, Joe Kidd (starring Clint Eastwood) and Stick (starring Burt Reynolds). In all he wrote nine screenplays.
Leonard was born in New Orleans, but his family moved rather frequently and they eventually stopped in an area around Detroit when the writer was 11 years-old,
The writer said that his interest in books started when he was in the fifth grade after reading a serialization in a Detroit newspaper. In subsequent interviews, he named Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Raymond Carver as his literary influences.
Elmore Leonard was an award winning writer who, in 2007, published Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It was an 89 page book that gave pointers and some rules that he worked by whenever he wrote. He explained in the book that, “These are the rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story.”
In his book on writing he emphasised one rule above all others, he wrote, “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Elmore Leonard was the creator of iconic crime novels that featured unforgettable characters, dialogue and scenarios. His writing style was unlike any other author’s and his gritty realism was not matched by anyone else in the literary scene. His death at age 87 will leave a huge gap in the crime fiction world.
By Michael Smith