Elmore J. Leonard
October 11, 1925 - August 20, 2013
Elmore J. Leonard died peacefully at his home in Bloomfield Hills, August 20, 2013. He was 87 years old.
The following is Elmore’s biography written by Greg Sutter:
Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 11, 1925. His father worked as an executive for General Motors Corporation, and from 1927 to 1934, Leonard, his parents and older sister, Margaret, moved several times to Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before finally settling in Detroit in 1934.
In the fifth grade, in 1935, Leonard showed the first sign of wanting to write fiction. He wrote a play inspired by the book, All Quiet on the Western Front, recently serialized in a Detroit newspaper; though it was the 1930 film version he recalls more vividly. He staged the play in the classroom, using desks as the barbed wire of no man’s land.
Throughout grade school and high school Leonard spent much of his free time playing baseball and football, giving little thought to writing other than for schoolwork. In high school a classmate gave him his nickname, “Dutch” after the Washington Senators “knuckleballer”, Emil “Dutch” Leonard.
In 1943, at the age of 17, Leonard graduated from The University of Detroit High School, and tried to join the Marines, but was rejected because of poor vision. He was subsequently drafted and assigned to the Seabees, the fighting construction battalion of the United States Navy. He served for a little more than a year and a half in the Admiralty Islands and the Philippines before returning home in January of 1946. He was assigned to a ship for six and a half months and was discharged from the Navy in June of that year. Leonard enrolled in the University of Detroit and majored in English and Philosophy.
In 1947, Elmore Leonard’s father left General Motors and bought an auto dealership in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Upon graduation, Leonard planned to work for him, but his father died of a heart attack six months after the move to New Mexico, ending any thoughts he might have had of selling automobiles.
He married Beverly Cline in 1949 and went to work for the Campbell Ewald advertising agency. He soon became an ad writer but wrote Western stories on the side, selling mostly to pulp magazines, and to men’s magazines like Argosy, and one story to the Saturday Evening Post.
He chose westerns because he liked western movies and wanted to sell to Hollywood. Influenced by Ernest Hemingway, he applied Hemingway’s spare style of writing to his stories. For source material, Leonard focused on the Cavalry and Apaches of Southern Arizona in the 1880s. He wrote five western novels and thirty short stories in the 1950s, two of which sold to the movies: 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T.
In 1961, Leonard quit his job at the ad agency to write full time. The western fiction market had dried up because of a plethora of westerns on television and he wanted to write contemporary stories. But the demands of a growing family required him to take freelance advertising jobs instead.
After five years away from writing fiction, Leonard finished his first non-Western novel, The Big Bounce, buoyed by the sale of film rights to his novel Hombre. His Hollywood agent, the legendary H. N. Swanson read it and told him, “Kiddo, I’m going to make you rich.”
It would be a long, but clearly marked, road to success. Leonard began selling his work to Hollywood on a regular basis. When his next novel, The Moonshine War sold, he wrote the screenplay. Screenwriting would give him the income to pursue his real goal: writing novels full time. 52 Pickup was published in 1974, the first of several novels set in his hometown, Detroit. He read The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins and credits Higgins with showing him how to “loosen up” his writing and “get into scenes quicker.”
Leonard’s books were now getting glowing reviews. In 1984, LaBrava was voted the best novel by the Mystery Writers of America. The following year, Glitz appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and Leonard was touted as “the greatest living crime writer.”
He grew in stature and turned out well-received novels such as Freaky Deaky, Killshot, Maximum Bob and his “Hollywood” book, Get Shorty, which in 1995 was made into a hit movie by Barry Sonnenfeld and catapulted him to even greater fame.
Two more successful film adaptations followed: Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, based on Rum Punch in 1997, and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight in 1998.
In 2001, The New York Times published Leonard’s “Ten Rules of Writing” now famous among writers and critics featuring his axiom, “I try to leave out the parts that people tend to skip.” In 2007, the rules were made into a little book called Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, illustrated by Joe Ciardiello.
In 2005, at the age of 80, he wrote his fortieth novel, The Hot Kid, featuring his iconic marshal, Carl Webster, receiving some of the best reviews of his long career. That same year, he followed up with a 14 part serial novel for the New York Times Magazine entitled “Comfort to the Enemy.” In 2006, he completed the Carl Webster saga with Up in Honey’s Room. He also went full circle, as the book was set in the Detroit of his youth.
That same year, he received the prestigious Cartier’s Diamond Dagger Award in England and The Raymond Chandler Award at the Noir in Festival in Courmayeur, Italy. More awards followed: The F. Scott Fitzgerald award in 2008; the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Still a master of his craft, Elmore received some of the best reviews of his career for his 43rd novel, Road Dogs (2009), – a sequel of sorts to Out of Sight. Stephen King wrote in the New York Times:?“The dialogue crackles; the supporting characters are crisply drawn; and the story achieves almost instant escape velocity.”
In 2008, Elmore’s son, Peter Leonard, published his first novel, Quiver, and father and son began doing bookstore appearances and book festivals together. It has been a satisfying experience for Elmore to share the stage with his son. He’s happy that writing has turned into a family business.
In late 2010, Djibouti was published; a fun romp through the world of Somali pirates and home grown Al Qaeda terrorists, seen through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker.
Today, inspired by Justified, based on his novella, Fire in the Hole (2000), Elmore wrote his 45th novel, Raylan. Parts of this novel have been incorporated into the second and third season of Justified. “I can pick up Raylan’s story anywhere,” Elmore said. It’s like visiting with an old friend.”
Elmore is survived by his children, Jane (Gary) Jones, Peter (Julie) Leonard, Christopher (Suzy) Leonard, Bill (Carmen) Leonard, and Katy (Jim) Dudley, grandchildren, Shannon (John) Belmont, Tiffany Jones, Megan (Brett) Johnston, Tim Leonard, Alex Leonard, Max Leonard, Ben Leonard, Hillary Leonard, Kate Leonard, Abby Leonard, Joe Dudley, Nick Dudley, and Luke Dudley and great-grandchildren, Jack Belmont, Eliza Belmont, Jane Belmont, Miles Johnston, and Frank Belmont. He is also survived by Beverly Decker. Elmore is preceded in death by his wife, Joan Leonard and sister, Margaret Madey.
Friends may visit at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 1368 N. Crooks Road (between 14-15 Mile Rds.) Friday 2-8pm. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Name Church, 630 Harmon, Birmingham, Saturday 11am. Friends may visit at church beginning at 10am.
Memorials may be made to Maryknoll Sisters, P.O. Box 317, Maryknoll, New York 10545-0317.
|I treasure the books Dutch signed for me on his visits to Palm Beach. As a native Detroiter and long time Florida resident, I especially enjoyed both locales of his stories. I will miss him. God bless his memory. |
|Our thoughts and prayers our with the entire Leonard family during this difficult time. Love, Stephen & Lorri King|
|I will miss Mr. Leonard coming through my line at the grocery store. No matter how famous, he always had a kind word for us. He was a real "people person". I have read many of his novels and enjoyed all his references to the Detroit area.
My deepest sympathy to your family. |
|Dad used to love the "chili cook offs" at Dutch's house on Suffield. He would come home brimming with stories they had shared. Of course Dutch was one of the great story tellers of all time.|
David & John MacKenzie
|Jane, Peter, Chris and family - I am so very sorry for your loss. I fondly remember meeting your father when I was working with you at Leonard & Mayer. Such a wonderful man who brought joy to many people through his books and movies. May your memories of laughter and love carry you through this difficult time.|
Libby Wilson Liebig
| Deepest sympathies. I greatly enjoyed his books, movies and especially Justified. I had just finished Comfort to the Enemy when Mr. Leonard passed. He will truly be missed.
|Chris, my condolences to you and your family at this sad time. We should round up the gang from Midtown Cafe to give your dad a New Orleans send off.|
|Please know that your entire family is in my thoughts and prayers. The world grieves with you. I am a fan of all Mr. Leonard's books but a HUGE fan of "Justified". Cling to your precious memories and God's Grace will get you through.|
|My condolences to the family. Mr. Leonard (and I say that with the respect he deserves) was quite a guy, someone you certainly could be proud of.
I loved his fiction; his ear for dialogue, his capturing of places well known to me. But I also felt he was very human, very understanding. (I have no idea whether this is true or not having only met him when he signed his books or when I once found him with a crowd of literary cronies like Jim Harrison at the Beverly Hills Grill.) My feeling was that he was Steve McQueen cool, and I was a bumbling idiot before him.
My thoughts go out to his family, friends & associates. He will surely be missed. (How chichéd is that? But then, I don't claim to be a writer.)|
|Condolences to the Leonard family. You will be missed.|
|Words cannot express how sad I am. Rest in peace Butch.|
|Condolences and respect. The ripples of his life and career extend far beyond anyone can realize.|
|We're so very sorry for your loss. He was a great guy and I have only the fondest memories.|
James O. Born
|TO HIS FAMILY: My dad, Rudy Schreitmueller worked with E J Leonard in GM back in the early 30's. We were 5-blocks away neighbors in Gesu Parish at U of D, and went to the same HS and Universlty, although a few years apart. I'm 82 years old.
My dad, who was the father of 4 sons, wanted some new names in the family, so he gave me the middle name of LEONARD, after E J. I've always been honored to have it. I live both in Petoskey MI and Jensen Beach FL. My last encounter with Elmore was in Stuart FL at a book signing several years ago. He didn't recognize me immediately, but he sure knew my last name ! We talked for a few minutes, and he did sign the 2 books I purchased. Also big fans of Justified, and the book Raynal.
We'll all miss his insight into what makes some people tick. What a guy. Ed Schreitmueller|
EDWARD LEONARD SCHREITMUELLER
|Godspeed, sir. We were graced by your presence, made richer by your efforts. Rest well, and know you made a difference.|
|Chris, my condolences to you and your family at this sad time. This would be a good time for the gang from Midtown Cafe got together and give your dad a New Orleans sendoff.|
|We send our thoughts and prayers to the Leonard Family during this challenging time. Our hearts are with you.|
David & Susan Girard
|Great guy and a great writer. Deepest condolences.|
|An amazing treasure in the world. Thank you sir |
|My deepest sympathies to the Leonard family. I was lucky enough to be acquainted with Mr. Leonard for 25 years. Working at the now defunct Bottle and Basket, it was always a treat to see Mr. Leonard. He was very open about his writing process, and we loved his unabashed reviews of his movie adaptations. He loved the Tigers, and probably would have been a great manager. RIP to a true gentleman.|
|My young daughter, Sophia (6) can't recall what happened 2 minutes ago. She met Mr. Leonard once, briefly and a year later, remembered his face and the title of his children's story, 'There's a Coyote in the House.' It comes as no surprise, to anyone who knew him, that he would make such an indelible impression on a child. He spoke to you, not at you. My condolences to his family for their loss. |
|I will miss the happiness of knowing that every year there would be a new book by Elmore. Thanks for all the good reading you gave me, and thanks for what you taught me.|
Luis Alfredo Perez S
|Some people wait with excitement each year for their birthday or for Christmas. One of my greatest pleasures for the past 35 years has been anticipating each new novel by Mr. Leonard. Not a single one left me feeling anything but completely satisfied. How I will miss that. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. |
|We really enjoyed Dutch's last visit to UDMercy, and we thank him for gracing us with his presence one last time. We will all miss this wonderful man very much. Flights of angels sing him to his rest, and may our loving Lord comfort his family and friends.|
Ruth E. Fichter
|I speak for many colleagues at William Morrow and HarperCollins when I say how much we have enjoyed working with Elmore and publishing his books—some of the most entertaining and engaging stories of this or any age. We’re looking forward to celebrating his life in the days ahead. And we will miss him very much. |
|I'm a writer, yet words cannot express my profound sadness. He was like the closest member of a family, the greatest teacher, a wonderful entertainer. He will be missed greatly (sorry for the adverb).
|My thoughts are with Mr Leonards family. I will miss the anual thrill his books have given me in the last thirty years. And it saddens me the deepest that I will never experience the excitement that only a Elmore Leonard novel can gave me in the past.
Thanks for everything Dutch.
A fan from Hamburg, Germany.|
|I did not have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Leonard, and am only a humble fan. Sadly, long ago I abandoned the idea of writing professionally. Mr. Leonard's accomplishments in the later years of his life put things in the proper perspective for me, and the ink is flowing again! Thank you sir, here's to a celebration of your life!|
|One mark of a truly great man is the humility and grace they exhibit in public. Mr. Leonard was the essence of class, and his modesty in the face of fame was refreshing. Others have spoken of his enormous talent, I wish to speak of his kindness and civility toward all of us who live in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area. I always respected the fact that he kept his roots here, and he gave us so much to be proud of. As a fellow citizen and as a huge fan, I extend my condolences to the Leonard family. His memory will live on for generatons. Karl Nilsson |
|His books are on my shelves and are re-read constantly. He was such a pleasure to read and could be so hilarious. I wish he could have written forever. My condolences.|
|I first read Elmore Leonard in 1993 and since then I have - of course - read anything by him. Always looking forward to his new novel. Always keeping a high quality standard. Earlier this year Jack Vance, one of my other literary heroes passed away, so this is really a very sad year. I hope you rest in peace, Dutch. Be sure I will be reading your books again.
Marco Zonderland, Netherlands|
|Dutch was a good friend to my father. Now he and dad can shoot the breeze with the rest of the Puritan and Suffield crew who are up in heaven. I can almost hear them laughing right now. Thank you, Leonards, for sharing him with the world.|
|Twenty-two years ago, Mr. Leonard was in Nashville, Tennessee doing a signing at a bookstore. At the time, I was teaching a writing class at the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He agreed to visit the class and spent the entire afternoon talking to inmate writers. He gave so graciously of his time and thoughts to these guys and was a great listener as well. Most will remember him as one of the world's great writers, but I also remember him as a very kind and generous person. A true gentleman...|
|Although my Mom didn't discover Elmore Leonard until the '80s, she quickly became a groupie, anxiously awaiting his next book release all the while convincing her 6 kids to read his work. When my wife presented her a signed copy of his latest work at Christmas one year, it ensured she would forever be the favorite daughter-in-law. And then when Mom finally got to actually meet Elmore (thanks Katy Dudley), she wasn't sure which trait she valued more: his charm, his humility or his cool factor. Thanks for impressing and inspiring my Mom, a prolific reader who knew you were the real deal. God Bless.|
|Bill, Carmen, Beverly, and the rest of the Leonard family that I spent so much precious, joy filled time with during my high school and college days, my deepest and sincere condolences. I will always treasure the great honor your dear father bestowed upon me by giving my name to one of his characters in his book, 'Pagan Babies.' My prayers and long distance support are with you during this difficult time.|
|Condolences to the family of a great American writer from an Englishman who has treasured Elmore's books for over thirty years. He will be missed and never replaced.|
|Condolences to the family of a great American writer from an Englishman who has treasured Elmore's books for over thirty years. He will be missed and never replaced.|
|The passing, too soon, of Elmore is such a great loss to his incredible family, countless friends, the literary and movie world, and Detroit. I was blessed to have known him, and his loving family. Rest in peace Big Mo.
Jim, Dawn, Jenna, Natalie, and Jimmy Tocco|
|Peace to the Leonard family
Brother Rice 1970|
|Mr. Leonard's words and vision on the page was a gift he shared with all of us. He made it look so easy.
I was never a big reader growing up, until I was introduced to his work by another writer, Phillip Finch one fine day in southeast Kansas. It was truly a game changer for me as a young man at the time finding his way, now a veteran teacher encouraging young men to read, starting with his books.
I found so much comfort in Mr. Leonard's books over the last 20 years years. I will continue to spread the good news of his work to the younger generations behind me.
Thank you Mr. Leonard for ALL you have done. Your words and example will be greatly missed. |
|What a joy it was to discover Elmore Leonard about 15 years ago. I was delighted to learn how prolific he had been during the years I was unacquainted with his work. His early westerns were my absolute favorites, and are the best ever written in that genre. I ask for comfort from God to your family and friends. We readers share a small part of your sadness at this time. Thank you for sharing him with us.|
|Farewell to the finest storyteller of his age, it`s a sad day|
|My thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful family. Elmore was my favorite writer over the last 20 years, will miss him|
|Jane, I am so sorry for your loss. As a long-time friend and neighbor, I have many fond memories of your family (though your father was usually holed up working on the back porch on Suffield). Over the years I've thoroughly enjoyed your Dad's books and took pleasure in imagining that some may have been written at my own childhood home on Fairfax after he bought it. Your father was a kind and talented man who will be missed by many. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you during this sad time.|
|Growing up in Clarkston, my late father introduced the writing of Elmore Leonard to my brothers and I in our teens. He saw it as a learning experience, and it was. We have been fans ever since. A powerful voice has been lost to so many. My condolences go out to the entire family.|
|Elmore's style and wit was always enjoyed by the staff, management and ownership as he frequently dined at the Midtown Cafe. He was a one of a kind and the memories of his visits will be forever treasured.|
|To Peter and family. my condolences on the loss of your father. May he rest in peace. |
|My condolences to the entire Leonard family. When I was going through some difficult times in my life reading Mr Leonard's books was one of the few things that gave me some momentary escape and relief. So glad I once sent him an e-mail sharing that.Loved all of his books, read virtually everything he wrote and whenever a new title was released I was always excited. One of my favorite authors of all time and its a sad sad day.|
|I only know Mr. Leonard through his work. That work will continue to entertain and influence for years to come.
Elmore's legacy is a source of pride for all of us that live in Michigan, especially those that continue to root for all things Detroit. Thank you Dutch.|
|When I was little, my folks always had friends coming by. Some I liked, some I didn't. Mr. Leonard was a grownup who often seemed like another one of us kids, and I liked him a lot. We all did. He found the Coca Cola machine that spewed dimes if you shook it. He brought pancakes out for the raccoon. He made a cross of driftwood and tied me up on it, on my back on the beach and said he'd give me some money if I could get on my feet, and I couldn't, so he put that bit into "Valdez is Coming." I remember talk where some of the real grownups pushed him to find a real profession, make some money, forget about his dumb novels. Yeah, well, he just kept writing, kept on doing what he liked best and did it long enough that people started paying attention.
Dutch was a good friend to my mom and my dad, and for a lot of us the best example ever of the simple faith that if you keep on doing what you really love, it'll work out fine.
To Jane, Peter, Chris (there were other Leonards, but you're the ones I remember)--- on behalf of myself, my brothers, and Bill and Peggy (both now deceased), please accept our condolences and great appreciation for all that your dad brought to our lives.
Dan Deneen |
|I will long treasure the first time I met Mr. Leonard - my first book signing and the first author I'd met live - in the early 1980s. He was gracious and engaging, and warmly inscribed my book, inspiring me to become a collector of signed mysteries to this day. I had the pleasure of meeting him about a dozen times since - I will miss him and his work. My deepest sympathies to the Leonard family.|
|Dear Peter and Jane -- I want to express my deepest condolences over the loss of your father. I only had the pleasure of meeting your Dad once, but knowing and working with you both gave me the opportunity to "vicariously know" Elmore, at least a little. In honor of your Dad I'll dust off one of his novels this weekend, and immerse myself with his wit and talent.|
|A teacher, a friend, a mentor to all he touched with his entertaining wit and drama. In heavenly company, Dutch is already at work on a scorching novel to the delight of angels. It was our pleasure and gift to have shared time with this wonderful man. Our warm condolence to his family. |
Tom and Mary Van Dyke
|The other Detroit spinner but a spinner of words and top crime fiction will be missed. |
|Mr Leonard - you will be missed. Your ability to move a story along through dialog was the best part of reading your novels. Meeting you was also a high point. May you rest in peace.|
|Dear Chris,I am so very sad for your loss. I remember great times at your parents home with all the Brother Rice boys and the Convent girls.Your Dad was so kind to get us all tickets for the re release of Hombre at the Birmingham Theatre-it was such a thrill to see Elmore Leonard's name on the BIG screen.Fond memories!!!! My love and prayers across the miles to you and your family.Bitsy Jennings Govern|
Bitsy Jennings Govern
|Dear Mr. Leonard: "May you have food and clothing, A soft pillow for your head; May you be forty years in heaven, Before the devil knows you're dead." Unknown Irish author. To the entire Leonard family, also from an unknown Irish author: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal." My prayers are with you at Holy Name tomorrow. |
Kathleen Solner Pearce
|Peter, to you and your family my deepest condolences. You are all in my thoughts and prayers!|
|Katy, I wish to express my deepest sympathy to you and your family on the loss of your dear father. My prayers are with you at this time. |
Mrs. Anne Benington
|I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Leonard some 6 years ago at a book signing in Philadelphia. When I think of him I think of a craftsman whose work only got more pleasurable to read through the years. We have lost a great artist but one whose work will live on in every library and bookstore in America. High praise indeed it seems. May God bless his soul.|
Richard Dean Jenkins
|Our deepest sympathy goes out to the entire Leonard family - thoughts and prayers are with you.|
Carol, Phil and Kate Stewart
|Brenda and I send our deepest sympathies to the Leonad Family. I had the pleasure of meeting "Dutch" over 25 years ago. He worked with our Homicide Squad 7 years ago for over six months during his research for "City Primevil," and there was not a nicer person. I will always treasure those days, and Dutch will forever remain in my prayers.
Retired DPD Sergeant: Jimmy Harris|
James R. "Jimmy" Harris
| To Beverly, Jane, Peter, Chris, Bill and Katy- and all... our thoughts are with you as you say Goodbye to Dutch- wishing you much joy and laughter as you share memories together..Lord knows there are plenty of Good folks waiting in Heaven for a good story! I can think of several off the top of My head.. Big Gay- Ed and of course jerry and shayla! Hugs and love your way from the North woods.. wish we could be there to hug you all BUT I had to ask Pete Tata to handle that for me... xxo
egan and all the McGlynn clan|
|Peter, Chris - Our sincere condolences to your entire family at this sad time. Gina and Joe|
Gina and Joe Turkel
|Elmore Leonard was my favorite writer after I picked up one of his books at the airport. After that I read everything in print and couldn't wait for his next book. He made many a plane trip pleasant. |
|Jane...I am so sorry for your loss. I keep picturing the framed photo your dad sent for you to display in the dorm room that first year...too funny. I also remember the letters he wrote describing people on the street outside his office window and the scenarios he planned for them...nothing like my letters from home! I feel very fortunate to have known your dad and fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with your family during our time at Grand Valley.|
|A fantastic writer introduced to me by my late friend Jim MacLachlan in the early 1980s. Elmore's books gave me a lot of pleasure and I'll always treasure them. Will miss him a lot.|
|Sincere condolences to Elmore Leonard's family and friends. Their loss is widely felt, including here in Ireland.|
|only an understandment would truly fit here "a true loss" - thank you for sharing Elmore with us all. Canadian Fans|
|I'm from Sweden, just bought a novel, Raylan, the other day, here in New York, and got the news from the clerk. I've read Elmore Leonard for many years (in English), his novels has given me so many great moments that I cherish, actually enrichened my life, brought them with me on travels, shared and discussed with my friends in Sweden. Thank you Elmore! My condolences to the family.|
|My condolences to the family of Mr. Leonard...he has been a favorite author of mine for many years...and if I were ever to start writing, he would be my role model. We went to the same university, University of Detroit and lived in the same area, although I have not been back to Michigan in many years. Rest in peace, Elmore, you were a genius. |
|God Bless Elmore Leonard. Seems like I've been reading his novels for years. (and couldn;t wait for the next one). I lived on Overhill in the village for many years, then moved to Towson, MD. I still love Birmingham and will continue to enjoy his novels.|
| Elmore is the master of developing fascinating characters on both sides of the law.
I am drawn to the down-to earth dialogue he uses to create his characters. It is so humorous and real when we consider the players in his stories.
The suspense he creates, leading to the not so predicted climax of each yarn he weaves, is palpable.|
john r. proo