Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A tribute to Elmore Leonard

The "Dickens of Detroit," author Elmore Leonard, has died at age 87. He had suffered a stroke late in July, and though initially he appeared to be recovering, he ultimately lost his battle, dying at his home earlier today in Bloomfield Hills. Leonard is best known for his gritty mystery and crime novels, many of which have been adapted into television shows and Hollywood films by the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

Elmore Leonard
Leonard was born in 1925 in New Orleans, and moved with his family to Detroit when he was about nine years old. He's said that the writing bug first bit him in the fifth grade, when he wrote a play based on the novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front" and staged it in his classroom. In 1943, Leonard graduated from the University of Detroit High School, then joined the Navy, where he served in the South Pacific. After leaving the service, he studied English and philosophy at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1950.

Though Leonard got a job writing copy for an ad agency, the fiction bug was still circling him. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's spare style, and by the western movies Leonard loved so much, he began writing western novels, then segued into crime fiction. Throughout the decades, he wrote 45 full-length novels, as well as a novel serialized in the New York Times Magazine. Leonard also wrote several short stories, essays, non-fiction works, and screenplays.

I haven't read any of Leonard's works, though a few of his novels are in my insanely huge pile of to-be-read books. I'm more of a historical fiction girl, so I'm not sure whether his subject matter will interest me. However, I might have to pick up a few works in homage, especially after having read one of the suggestions he gave to aspiring writers in his essay, "Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing." Quite simply, Leonard said, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

For more information:

Elmore Leonard's website

List of Elmore Leonard books

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