Popular novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard died this morning according to an announcement published to his official website. His death is attributed to complications brought on by a stroke he suffered this past July. He was eighty-seven years-old.
Leonard was born in the city of New Orleans in 1925, but his family relocated to Detroit when he was still very young. After serving in the United States Navy, Leonard attended the University of Detroit where he majored in English and philosophy. Shortly before graduation he took a job as a copywriter with a local advertising agency, pursuing his writing career on the side until he was able to commit to doing so full time.
Leonard’s first published novel was 1953’s The Bounty Hunter, a Western. The author would continue to write in the Western genre throughout the fifties before moving into crime and mystery fiction, which would lead to great acclaim.
Leonard was an incredibly prolific writer, having left as part of his legacy forty-five novels and dozens of short stories and screenplays. Twenty-six of his works have been adapted for film and television, among them “Rum Punch,” adapted by Quentin Tarantino and released under the title “Jackie Brown.” Tarantino, a fan of Leonard’s work since he was a teenager, also co-produced an adaptation of the author’s book Killshot and at one time held the rights to his novel Freaky Deaky.
Other adaptations of Leonard’s work include “Get Shorty,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Out of Sight,” “52 Pick-Up,” and “Mr. Majestyk.” Leonard was always very involved in the movie adaptations, and sometimes wrote the screenplays for the films. More recently, Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” featuring Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, inspired the popular FX series “Justified,” starring actor Timothy Olyphant as Givens. Leonard was one of the show’s executive producers.
Leonard may be gone, but his stories of rough men, scheming women, and crooked cops will continue to entertain and inspire millions for many years to come.