Crime novelist Elmore Leonard dies at 87

Elmore Leonard in 1998.
(Partrick Goldstein / Los Angeles Times)

Elmore Leonard, one of America’s best known crime novelists, died Tuesday morning due to complications from a stroke, according to Leonard’s Facebook page and his longtime researcher at the Detroit News, Gregg Sutter.

Leonard, 87, was working on his 46th novel at the time of his death.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, Leonard and his family moved to Detroit when the writer was very young and his father was working for General Motors. Leonard made the city his longtime home, and was referred to as “the Dickens of Detroit” by fans.

His first book, “The Bounty Hunters,” was published in 1953. His writing career began with pulp Westerns, only settling into the trademark Leonard realism, crime and wit with 1969’s “The Big Bounce,” which has been adapted for the movies twice. His most recent novel, “Raylan,” was released in 2012.


Twenty-six of his books and short stories have been adapted for the screen, including “Hombre,” “Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown,” (based on 1992’s “Rum Punch”) and “Justified,” a TV shows based on 1993’s “Pronto,” 1995’s “Riding the Rap” and the 2001 short story ‘Fire in the Hole.”

Leonard’s awards include the Grand Master Edgar Award in 1992, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature in 2008, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, (for which he was complimented for his “uncanny ear for crooks, cops, and babes”) and the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution in 2012.

In his widely circulated rules of writing, Leonard said, “Never open a book with weather; avoid prologues; keep your exclamation points under control; use regional dialect sparingly; avoid detailed descriptions of characters, places, and things; and try to leave out the part the readers tend to skip.”

Most important, however, he said, “if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”



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