A life of crime
NEW YORK — American author Elmore Leonard, whose ear for gritty, realistic dialogue helped bring dozens of hard-bitten crooks, cops and cowboys to life in nearly 50 novels, died on Tuesday several weeks after he suffered a stroke. He was 87.
Leonard, who first wrote Westerns when he gave up his advertising agency job in the 1950s before moving on to crime and suspense books, suffered a stroke on July 29.
Known by the nickname Dutch, Leonard enjoyed commercial success in 1985 with the publication of Glitz.
His subsequent books, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Killshot, Bandits and Freaky Deaky, came out every year-and-a-half or so and were best-sellers.
Leonard’s 47th book, Blue Dreams, was to be published this year.
He won the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in November 2012, putting him in the company of American literary luminaries as Toni Morrison, John Updike, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.
Hollywood had an affinity for Leonard’s books, and more than 25 of his works were made into movies or television shows, beginning with Paul Newman in the 1967 film Hombre. The Western story 3:10 To Yuma and the novel The Big Bounce were each adapted for film twice.
Movie producers and stars were so anxious to secure rights to his books that they were known to show up on Leonard’s doorstep on the publication date.
But audiences and even the author himself were often unhappy with the cinematic adaptations.
Leonard, who spent much of his life in Detroit and its suburbs, said many film-makers made the mistake of pushing the plots of what were character-driven stories, such as Get Shorty, which is about a likeable loanshark named Chili Palmer.