Sadly, we have to start off on some sombre news today. Acclaimed American crime novelist Elmore Leonard has passed away at the age of 87. He succumbed last night to complications from a stroke he suffered on June 29.
Now ordinarily we don’t cover stories pertaining to authors around here, but Elmore Leonard was no ordinary author. Even if you’ve never read a single page of one of his 49 published novels (quite a feat on its own), I can almost guarantee that if you have even the slightest interest in film, then you’re familiar with some of his stories.
Starting off his writing career in the 1950’s with several short story Westerns, he would hit it big with his first full length novel, The Bounty Hunters in 1953. This was followed by several more Western novels, before Leonard eventually switched genres to crime and mystery novels. But whatever the trappings of the story, Leonard’s gritty, realistic heroes and scenarios would shine through, which in turn brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Just 4 years after his first novel was published, one of his stories – The Tall T – saw itself adapted to the screen, followed shortly thereafter by another, 3:10 To Yuma, which would see itself adapted a second time in 2007 by James “The Wolverine” Mangold.
Hollywood soon realized that they were onto something, and returned to the Leonard-well quite a few times after that. A staggering 29 times, to be exact, as his stories got adapted not just into several movies, but also TV series later on. Get Shorty, Be Cool, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Killshot,Valdez is Coming, Karen Sisco, Justified and many more, all originally came from the mind of Elmore Leonard.
He was arguably the most influential American crime writer of all time, and he has left an indelible mark on not just pop culture, but also the lives of his millions of fans. And those fans range from the everyman like you and me, to big time pop culture icons like Quentin Tarantino, who adapted Leonard’s novel Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. But Leonard’s influence didn’t just stop with that one story, as Tarantino explained to Creative Screen Writing.
“Well, when I was a kid and I first started reading his novels I got really caught up in his characters and the way they talked. As I started reading more and more of his novels it kind of gave me permission to go my way with characters talking around things as opposed to talking about them. He showed me that characters can go off on tangents and those tangents are just as valid as anything else. Like the way real people talk.
I think his biggest influence on any of my things was ‘True Romance’. Actually, in ‘True Romance’ I was trying to do my version of an Elmore Leonard novel in script form. I didn’t rip it off, there’s nothing blatant about it, it’s just a feeling you know, and a style I was inspired by more than anything you could point your finger at.”
Like Tarantino, their are countless others who will always be in debt to the prolific and legendary writer, and even more who will miss picking up a new page turner to get lost in. I am one of them.
According to Leonard’s long time researcher and webmaster, Gregg Sutter, Leonard passed away in a Detroit area hospital, surrounded by family and friends.
Last Updated: August 21, 2013