News / Arts & Entertainment

American Author Elmore Leonard Dies

FILE - Author Elmore Leonard, 86, smiles during an interview at his home in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, Sept. 17, 2012.
FILE - Author Elmore Leonard, 86, smiles during an interview at his home in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, Sept. 17, 2012.
Reuters
American author Elmore Leonard, whose ear for gritty, realistic dialog helped bring dozens of hard-bitten crooks, cops and cowboys to life in nearly 50 novels, died on Tuesday several weeks after a stroke. He was 87.
 
“Elmore passed away this morning at 7:15 a.m. at home surrounded by his loving family,” according to an announcement on his website, elmoreleonard.com. It did not provide other details.
 
Leonard, who first wrote Westerns when he gave up his advertising agency job in the 1950s before moving on to crime and suspense books, suffered a stroke on July 29.
 
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 bestsellers.
 
Leonard's 47th book, “Blue Dreams,” was expected to be published this year.
 
“I don't have any reason to quit,” Leonard told Reuters in 2012, referring to his career. “I still enjoy writing.”
 
Hollywood had an affinity for Leonard's books, and more than 25 of his works were made into movies or television shows, beginning with Paul Newman in the 1967 film “Hombre.” The Western story “3:10 to Yuma” and the novel “The Big Bounce” were each adapted for film twice.
 
Movie producers and stars were so anxious to secure rights to his books that they were known to show up on Leonard's doorstep on the publication date.
 
But audiences and even the author himself were often unhappy with the cinematic adaptations.
 
Leonard, who spent much of his life in Detroit and its suburbs, said many filmmakers made the mistake of pushing the plots of what were character-driven stories, such as “Get Shorty,” which is about a likable loanshark named Chili Palmer.
 
“My characters are what the books are about. The plot just kind of comes along,” Leonard told London's Guardian in a 2004 interview. “Movies always want to concentrate on the action.”
 
His favorite movie adaptation of one of his novels was director-writer Quentin Tarantino's reworking of “Rum Punch” into the film “Jackie Brown.”
 
The cable television series “Justified,” the tale of a U.S. marshal in Kentucky that first aired in 2010, was based on Leonard's work and he served as executive producer of the show.
 
'Dickens of Detroit'
 
Born in New Orleans, Leonard moved at age 8 with his family to Detroit, where he became enthralled by the real-life exploits of gangsters Bonnie and Clyde and the fortunes of the city's professional baseball team, the Detroit Tigers.
 
Reading Erich Maria Remarque's World War I tale “All Quiet on the Western Front” as a boy made him want to become a writer.
 
After a stint in the Navy building bases in the South Pacific during World War II, Leonard enrolled at the University of Detroit, entering writing contests and selling stories to magazines that featured tales of the Old West.
 
He would rise before dawn, denying himself a cup of coffee until he had written a page, and then head off to write copy at a Detroit advertising agency.
 
Leonard switched to crime fiction when the popularity of Westerns faded. His tough characters spoke in a clipped, twisted syntax that led Newsweek magazine in a 1984 cover story to call him “the Dickens of Detroit” - a label he scorned.
 
Leonard explained his approach in a New York Times essay in which he listed his rules for writing, including, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
 
He summed up his technique by saying, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
 
Leonard, who overcame a drinking problem in 1977, wrote daily in long-hand on unlined pads in his living room, employing a researcher to enrich his material.
 
He won the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in November 2012, putting him in the company of such U.S. literary luminaries as Toni Morrison, John Updike, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.
 
Leonard was married three times and had five children with his first wife. His son Peter also went into advertising before becoming a writer.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: steve hopkins from: nyc
August 20, 2013 4:19 PM
Good people keep checking out on me, making me want to sing this song. Today it was my man Elmore Leonard. I'm very glad he kept working until the bitter end. He gives us something to shoot for. https://soundcloud.com/biff-thuringer/peace-of-mind

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Hamilton Live: Dustbowl Revivali
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
September 02, 2015 12:19 PM
Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."

Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."