Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Elmore Leonard, bestselling crime novelist and screenwriter, dies

Elmore Leonard wrote dozens of bestsellers, many of which were adapted for the screen, including 'Jackie Brown,' 'Get Shorty,' 'Out of Sight,' '3:10 to Yuma,' and the FX series 'Justified.'

(Page 3 of 3)



He settled in at his home office around 10 a.m. behind a desk covered with stacks of paper and books. He lit a cigarette and began writing longhand on the 63-page unlined yellow pads that were custom-made for him.

Skip to next paragraph

When he finished a page, Leonard transferred the words onto a separate piece of paper using an electric typewriter. He tried to complete between three and five pages by the time his workday ended at 6 p.m.

"Well, you've got to put in the time if you want to write a book," Leonard told AP in 2010.

Leonard sold his first story, "Trail of the Apache," in 1951, and followed with 30 more for such magazines as "Dime Western," earning 2 or 3 cents a word. At the time, he was working in advertising, but he would wake up early to work on his fiction before trudging off to write Chevrolet ads.

One story, "3:10 to Yuma," became a noted 1956 movie starring Glenn Ford. That same year, "The Captives" was made into a film called "The Tall T." But the small windfall wasn't enough for Leonard to quit his day job. ("3:10 to Yuma" was remade in 2007, starring Russell Crowe.)

His first novel, "The Bounty Hunters," was published in 1953, and he wrote four more in the next eight years. One of them, "Hombre," about a white man raised by Apaches, was a breakthrough for the struggling young writer. When 20th Century Fox bought the rights for $10,000 in 1967, he quit the ad business to write full time.

"Hombre" became a pretty good movie starring Paul Newman, and the book was named one of the greatest Westerns of all time by the Western Writers of America.

Soon, another Leonard Western, "Valdez Is Coming," became a star vehicle for Burt Lancaster. But as the 1960s ended, the market for Westerns fizzled. Leonard wrote five more, but they sold poorly, and Hollywood lost interest.

Leonard was born in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 1925, the son of General Motors executive Elmore John Leonardand his wife, Flora.

The family settled near Detroit when young Elmore was a boy. The tough, undersized young man played quarterback in high school and earned the nickname "Dutch," after Emil "Dutch" Leonard, a knuckleball pitcher of the day. The ballplayer's card sat for years in the writer's study on one of the shelves lined with copies of his books.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he majored in English at the University of Detroit. He started writing copy for an advertising agency before his graduation in 1950.

He married three times and had five children.

His son, Peter, followed in his father's path, going into advertising for years before achieving his own success as a novelist with his 2008 debut, "Quiver."

A visitation was scheduled for Friday in the Detroit suburb of Clawson, to be followed by a funeral Mass Saturday in nearby Birmingham.

In 2012, after learning he was to become a National Book Award lifetime achievement recipient, Leonard said he had no intention of ending his life's work.

"I probably won't quit until I just quit everything — quit my life — because it's all I know how to do," he told the AP at the time. "And it's fun. I do have fun writing, and a long time ago, I told myself, 'You got to have fun at this, or it'll drive you nuts.'"

Associated Press National Writer Hillel Italie in New York and AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York contributed to this report.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Editors' picks:

What are you reading?

Let me know about a good book you've read recently, or about the book that's currently on your bedside table. Why did you pick it up? Are you enjoying it?

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!