Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard: R.I.P.

Iconic American Crime Fiction writer Elmore Leonard has died at the age of 87. So long, Dutch!

From the Detroit News:

Surrounded by family, Leonard died at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday at his Bloomfield Village home from complications of a stroke. He had been hospitalized since suffering the stroke in early August.
A worldly former advertising man, Leonard had a particular gift for the snappy, visceral dialogue of the street and of the cop shop. He started out writing Westerns in his spare time from his work as a Detroit ad man, but he lived long enough that his name became a byword for tightly written urban noirs shot through with mordant humor.

He was so admired by the crew of “Justified,” the F/X series based upon his novella “Fire in the Hole,” that they wore bracelets emblazoned “WWED” (for “What would Elmore do?).
The writer also particularly got a kick out of “Justified,” based on his novella “Fire in the Hole,” and was inspired to write a novel, “Raylan,” in 2012, about the title character.

Leonard never let up on his work schedule, writing longhand on unlined legal pads. He ordered a thousand of the writing pads a year.

“He’s very much into his 46th novel,” Sutter said when Leonard was first hospitalized. “He’s been working very hard.”

In November, the National Book Foundation honored Leonard with its medallion, an award saluting lifetime achievement.

In Leonard’s colorful world of dumb but entertaining crooks and bemused cops, there was always more than a whiff of postwar seediness and amorality. That blend of violence and comedy could often produce wonderful films.

Some movies based upon Leonard works include “Hombre” (starring Paul Newman), “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight” and “Jackie Brown” (based upon his “Rum Punch”).

Leonard was born in New Orleans, but his family moved around in the South before ending up in Detroit in 1934, when he was 9 years old. He attended the Blessed Sacrament School on Belmont in Detroit and was teased about his Southern accent. “The kids used to say, ‘Say, “sugar chile,” for me.’ I'd say, ‘Why are they asking me that?’ ”

He majored in English at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1950, then plunged into an advertising career in Detroit in the 1950s.

Famously, Leonard started writing Western-themed novels from 5-7 a.m. at home before going to work at the Campbell-Ewald agency, where Chevrolet trucks was one of his accounts. He developed a ferocious work ethic, writing every day in a cinder block basement office that son Peter described as looking like a prison cell.

After he quit advertising, he kept up the discipline in his monk-like office, writing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. without a lunch break.

1 comment:

Clark Lohr said...

Crime writer Darrell James recently told me he read and studied Leonard to learn Story. Lots of people who write well can say that. I heard Elmore Leonard talk at the Tucson Festival of Books a few years ago. He was over 80 then and sounded like he was 30. Reading about his work ethic, I am now chastened and will now begin today's writing tasks, knowing I'll never go further than Elmore Leonard.