Creator / Elmore Leonard

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
— Elmore Leonard's Rule #10 of writing

Elmore Leonard (19252013) was an American novelist and screenwriter. He started as a writer of westerns, but switched to whodunits and modern pulp fiction, where he has gotten the most acclaim. Several of his novels have been adapted to screen, both big and small, and he also wrote a few screenplays. His career spanned six decades, and he continued working up until his death.

He's known as "The Dickens of Detroit" for his catchy, intimate descriptions of the people of that city (he lived in the Detroit suburbs). Author wannabes should definitely read up on him. His prose style and ear for dialogue are worth checking out for inspiration. Kingsley Amis once told him, "Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy."

Also worth checking out by author wannabes is his Ten Rules of Writing. To sum up briefly: knock it off with the Purple Prose.

Sadly, he was struck down by stroke and died on August 20, 2013 at his home in Detroit from complications of the stroke.

Some of his better-known novels:

  • Three-Ten to Yuma (short story, 1953): adapted for the big screen in 1957 and again in 2007
  • Last Stand at Saber River (1959): on the small screen in 1997 starring Tom Selleck
  • Hombre (1961): big screen in 1967, starring Paul Newman
  • The Big Bounce: written in 1969, adapted for the big screen that same year before the novel was released, then re-adapted for the big screen in 2004.
  • The Moonshine War (1969): big screen in 1970
  • Valdez is Coming (1970): big screen in 1971
  • Mr. Majestyk (1974): big screen the same year, starring Charles Bronson
  • 52 Pick-Up (1974): big screen in 1986
  • Unknown Man No. 89 (1977)
  • The Switch (1978): Famously the book that Quentin Tarantino accidently shoplifted as a kid. Big screen in 2013 as Life of Crime.
  • City Primeval (1980)
  • Stick (1983): made into a movie in 1985, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds
  • La Brava (1983): won an Edgar Award
  • Get Shorty (1990): big screen in 1995
  • Maximum Bob (1991): made into a short-lived 1998 TV series
  • Rum Punch (1992): big screen in 1997
  • Out of Sight (1996): big screen in 1998
  • Be Cool (1999): big screen in 2005
  • Fire in the Hole (2001): made into 2010 TV series Justified
  • Tishomingo Blues (2002): Leonard's favorite of his own work
  • The Hot Kid (2005)
  • Road Dogs (2009)

He also wrote some screenplays that were not based on one of his novels:

Tropes featured in his work:

  • Action Girl: Elmore features strong, independent, and sometimes very violent leading ladies. Karen Sisco is perhaps his best-known heroine.
  • Affably Evil
  • Anti-Hero
  • Anti-Villain
  • Black and Grey Morality
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Good examples abound in his fiction.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Best example — the ice-cream cone in The Hot Kid.
  • Continuity Nod: While not especially known for recurring "series characters," readers will often encounter recurring characters. Often a minor character from an earlier novel will be a main character in a later book, or vice versa. One can make a game out of tracking Elmore Leonard's minor characters from work to work:
    • Road Dogs unites characters from Out of Sight, La Brava, and 1995's Riding the Rap.
    • Jack Foley in Out Of Sight and Road Dogs novels gets hit with hard time thanks to the judge from Maximum Bob.
    • Ray Nicolette pops up in both Rum Punch and Out of Sight. When Michael Keaton played Ray in Jackie Brown (retitled from Rum Punch) he also cameoed as the character later when Out of Sight got made into a film.
    • U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, currently appearing on TV's Justified, was the lead character in Pronto and Riding the Rap before being reassigned to Kentucky in the short story "Fire in the Hole," on which the series is technically based.
  • Detroit: Elmore obviously loves his adopted hometown.
  • Hanging Judge: Maximum Bob
  • Hello, Attorney!: Several examples, most notably Carolyn Wilder in City Primeval.
  • Kudzu Plot: The beauty of Leonard's prose is that it tends to un-complicate complicated plots. (Check out La Brava.)
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Reverend Dawn Navarro from Riding the Rap and Road Dogs. A lot of her fortune telling is based on understandable deductive reasoning or just information she secretly already had, but she makes enough accurate statements without such methods to make you wonder.
  • Only in Florida: While Detroit gets a lot of love, Elmore also sets a lot of action in Florida.
  • The Plan: He's got a funny way of making them seem pretty simple.
  • Purple Prose: Averted. Definitely not Beige Prose, though.
  • Said Bookism: Averted. One of Leonard's "Ten Rules" advises against this.
  • Sequel: Get Shorty is one of the few of his novels to receive the full sequel treatment, with Be Cool.
    • Also Road Dogs and the Raylan novels/short stories.
    • Rum Punch brings back the characters of Ordell, Louis, and Melanie from The Switch—making the 2014 film Life Of Crime a prequel of sorts to Jackie Brown.
  • Show Within a Show: "Mr. Lovejoy" from Get Shorty. "It will be my Driving Miss Daisy".
  • A Simple Plan: In Swag and Rum Punch, it goes predictably awry.
  • Too Dumb to Live: His villains typically have at least one comically incompetent member in the group, though it's even odds if it's actually their fault when they lose.
  • U.S. Marshal: Several recurring characters, including Raylan Givens, Karen Sisco, and her father, Marshall Sisco (retired, and yes, he was "Marshal Marshall Sisco.")
  • Wild West: What he started writing before switching to modern urban crime thrillers halfway through his career.
    • Leonard's skill has been taking the ethos of the Wild West and transplanting it to modern day. Guys like Raylan Givens or Jack Foley wouldn't be out of place in 1880s Arizona. And Ben Wade would fit right in to modern-day Miami.