Leonard, Elmore 1925- (Dutch Leonard, Elmore John Leonard, Jr., Emmett Long)
Leonard, Elmore 1925- (Dutch Leonard, Elmore John Leonard, Jr., Emmett Long)
Born October 11, 1925, in New Orleans, LA; son of Elmore John (an automotive executive) and Flora Amelia Leonard; married Beverly Cline, July 30, 1949 (divorced, May 24, 1977); married Joan Shepard, September 15, 1979 (died, January 13, 1993); married Christine Kent, August 19, 1993; children: (first marriage) Jane Jones, Peter, Christopher, William, Katherine Dudley. Education: University of Detroit, Ph.B., 1950. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Agent—Michael Siegel, Michael Siegel & Associates, 11532 Thurston Cir., Los Angeles, CA 90049.
Writer, 1967—. Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency, Detroit, MI, copywriter, 1950-61; freelance copywriter and author of educational and industrial films, 1961-63; head of Elmore Leonard Advertising Company, 1963-66. Producer or executive producer of films, including Jackie Brown, 1997, Tishomingo Blues, 2002, Be Cool, 2005, Tishomingo Blues, 2005; film consultant for movies and television. Military service: U.S. Naval Reserve, 1943-46.
Writers Guild of America West, Authors League of America, Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, Western Writers of America.
Hombre named one of the twenty-five best western novels of all time by Western Writers of America, 1977; Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1984, for LaBrava; Michigan Foundation for the Arts Award, 1985; Hammett Prize, International Association of Crime Writers, 1991, for Maximum Bob; Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, 1992; Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 1996, University of Detroit Mercy, 1997, and University of Michigan, 2000; Cartier Diamond Dagger, Crime Writers' Association, 2006, for a lifetime's achievement in crime writing.
The Bounty Hunters (also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1953.
The Law at Randado (also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1955.
Escape from Five Shadows (also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1956.
Last Stand at Saber River (also see below), Dell (New York, NY), 1957, published as Lawless River, R. Hale (London, England), 1959, published as Stand on the Saber, Corgi (London, England), 1960.
Hombre (also see below), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1961, reprinted, Armchair Detective Library (New York, NY), 1989.
Valdez Is Coming (also see below), Gold Medal (New York, NY), 1970.
Forty Lashes Less One (also see below), Bantam (New York, NY), 1972.
Gunsights (also see below), Bantam (New York, NY), 1979.
The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.
Elmore Leonard's Western Roundup #1 (contains The Bounty Hunters, Forty Lashes Less One, and Gunsights), Delta (New York, NY), 1998.
Elmore Leonard's Western Roundup #2 (contains Escape from Five Shadows, Last Stand at Saber River, and The Law at Randado), Delta (New York, NY), 1998.
Elmore Leonard's Western Roundup #3 (contains Valdez Is Coming and Hombre), Delta (New York, NY), 1999.
The Big Bounce, Gold Medal (New York, NY), 1969, revised edition, Armchair Detective, 1989.
The Moonshine War (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1969.
Mr. Majestyk (also see below), Dell (New York, NY), 1974.
Fifty-two Pickup (also see below), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1974.
Swag (also see below), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1976, published as Ryan's Rules, Dell (New York, NY), 1976.
Unknown Man No. 89, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1977.
The Hunted (also see below), Dell (New York, NY), 1977.
The Switch, Bantam (New York, NY), 1978.
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit (also see below), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1980.
Gold Coast (also see below), Bantam (New York, NY), 1980, revised edition, 1985.
Split Images (also see below), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1981, reprinted, Quill (New York, NY), 1999.
Cat Chaser (also see below), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1982.
Stick (also see below), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1983.
LaBrava (also see below), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1983.
Glitz, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1985.
Bandits, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1987.
Touch, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1987.
Freaky Deaky, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
Killshot, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
Get Shorty, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1990, reprinted, Dark Alley (New York, NY), 2005.
Maximum Bob, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.
Rum Punch, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.
Pronto, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
Riding the Rap, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1995.
Out of Sight, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1996.
Cuba Libre, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.
Be Cool (sequel to Get Shorty), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1999.
Pagan Babies, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2000.
Tishomingo Blues, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Mr. Paradise, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
The Hot Kid, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Up in Honey's Room, Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Elmore Leonard's Dutch Treat (contains The Hunted, Swag, and Mr. Majestyk), introduction by George F. Will, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1985.
Elmore Leonard's Double Dutch Treat (contains City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, The Moonshine War, and Gold Coast), introduction by Bob Greene, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1986.
Three Complete Novels (contains LaBrava, Cat Chaser, and Split Images), Wings Books (New York, NY), 1992.
The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
The Moonshine War (based on Leonard's novel of the same title), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1970.
Joe Kidd, Universal, 1972.
Mr. Majestyk (based on Leonard's novel of the same title), United Artists, 1974.
High Noon, Part 2: The Return of Will Kane, Columbia Broadcasting System, 1980.
(With Joseph C. Stinson) Stick (based on Leonard's novel of the same title), Universal, 1985.
(With John Steppling) 52 Pick-up (based on Leonard's novel of the same title), Cannon Group, 1986.
(With Fred Walton) The Rosary Murders (based on the novel by William X. Kienzle), New Line Cinema, 1987.
Desperado, National Broadcasting Corporation, 1988.
(With Joe Borrelli) Cat Chaser (based on Leonard's novel of the same title), Viacom, 1989.
(With Quentin Tarantino) Jackie Brown (based on Leonard's novel Rum Punch), Miramax, 1997.
Also author of filmscripts for Encyclopædia Britannica Films, including Settlement of the Mississippi Valley, Boy of Spain, Frontier Boy, and Julius Caesar, and of a recruiting film for the Franciscans.
(With others) Naked Came the Manatee (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Fire in the Hole (novella; e-book), Contentville Press, 2001.
When the Women Come out to Dance (short fiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
A Coyote's in the House (juvenile), Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Blood Money and Other Stories, HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2006.
Moment of Vengeance: And Other Stories, HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2006.
3:10 to Yuma: And Other Stories, HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2006.
Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Other books include Notebooks, Lord John, 1990; contributor to books, including The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism, edited by Dennis Wholey, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1984. Contributor of stories and novelettes to periodicals, including Dime Western, Argosy, Saturday Evening Post, and Zane Grey's Western.
The novelette 3:10 to Yuma was filmed by Columbia Pictures, 1957, and remade in 2007; the story "The Tall T" was filmed by Columbia, 1957; Hombre was filmed by Twentieth Century-Fox, 1967; The Big Bounce was filmed by Warner Bros., 1969, and 2004; Valdez Is Coming was filmed by United Artists, 1970; Glitz was filmed for television by NBC; Get Shorty was filmed by MGM/UA, 1995; Touch was filmed by Lumiere, 1996; Out of Sight, directed by Steven Soderbergh, screenplay by Scott Frank, was filmed by Universal, 1998; Tishomingo Blues was adapted for film in 2002; Karen Sisco (based on characters from Out of Sight) was developed for television by ABC, 2003; screen rights to the novella Tenkiller were purchased by Paramount, 2002; Be Cool was adapted for film by screenwriter Peter Steinfeld and director F. Gary Gray and released by MGM, 2005. Many of Leonard's novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including Be Cool, Recorded Books, 1999, The Kid and the Big Hunt, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2000, When the Women Come Out to Dance, Harper Audio, 2002, Tishomingo Blues, Harper Audio, 2003, and Mr. Paradise, Harper Audio, 2004.
Elmore Leonard had been hailed as one of the top crime novelists of the late twentieth century, carrying on the tradition of the early pulp novelists into the next century. With dozens of best-selling crime novels to his credit, Leonard has earned acclaim for imbuing his thrillers with dark humor, moral ambivalence, and a unique prose style that reflects the anxious realities of modern life. Dubbing the novelist the "mastermind behind darkly comic bestellers" like Get Shorty, Glitz, and Out of Sight, Rob Brookman maintained in a Book critique that Leonard combines "whip-smart prose with a seemingly inexhaustible cast of sleazeballs, scam artists and out-and-out psychopaths." While noting that Leonard began his career as a noir writer, Bill Ott explained the author's evolution, writing in Booklist that "happily-ever-aftering, unimaginable in real noir, remains a tempting if hard-won possibility in Leonard's world." Leonard's novels, according to Ott, characteristically offer readers "a violent, hard-boiled, streetwise brand of romantic comedy, usually starring a hero and heroine who … find their way out of an outlandish mess."
In the early 1980s Leonard began to receive even more attention from reviewers. While the plots of Leonard's books remain inherently action-packed and suspenseful, he also earns praise, to quote Washington Post Book World critic Jonathan Yardley, "for accomplishments rather more substantial than that of keeping the reader on tenterhooks." These accomplishments, which Yardley described as raising "the hard-boiled suspense novel beyond the limits of genre and into social commentary," led critics previously inclined to pigeonhole Leonard as a crime or mystery novelist to dispense with such labels in their assessments of his work. In the process, several critics have chosen to mention Leonard's name alongside those of other writers whose literary works transcend their genre, among them Ross Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett. "Leonard is one of our finest humorists, especially when he is not trying to be funny," explained Bruce DeSilva in New York Times Book Review. "We laugh because we recognize people we know and sometimes, though it can be hard to admit, something of ourselves in the flawed, very real people of his hard-boiled crime novels."
Leonard began his career in the early 1950s as a writer of western stories for magazines. His first sale was the novelette Apache Agent to Argosy magazine for ninety dollars. He eventually turned his hand to novels in the genre, publishing five of them while pursuing a career as an advertising copywriter for a firm in Detroit. Copywriter was not an occupation much to Leonard's liking. "He says matter-of-factly that he hated the work," noted Bill Dunn in a Publishers Weekly interview, "but it allowed him precious time and a steady paycheck to experiment with fiction, which he did in the early morning before going off to work." Leonard told Dunn: "Sometimes I would write a little fiction at work, too. I would write in my desk drawer and close the drawer if somebody came in."
By the early 1960s the western genre had already peaked in popularity, and Leonard found that the market for his fiction had dried up. For several years he wrote no fiction at all, devoting his time to freelance copy writing, primarily for Hurst gear shifters, a popular feature in hot rod cars. He also wrote industrial films for Detroit-area companies and educational films for Encyclopædia Britannica at a thousand dollars apiece. Finally in 1965, when his agent sold the film rights to his last western novel, Hombre, for ten thousand dollars, Leonard had the financial leeway to write fiction again. This time he focused on the mystery-suspense genre.
Despite the shift in genre, Leonard's fiction has remained in many ways the same. In both his western and crime fiction there is an overriding interest in see- ing that justice is done, as well as the world-weary recognition that justice is a very ambiguous concept. Leonard's prose, lean and hard, has consistently been of the same high quality. And his gunfighters and urban detectives approach their work with the same glib, wisecracking attitude. Writing in Esquire, Mike Lupica claimed that despite their apparent diversity, all of Leonard's main characters are essentially the same, but "with a different name and a different job." Lupica went on to write: "They have all been beat on by life, they all can drop a cool, wise-guy line on you, they are all tough, don't try to push them around."
Leonard's first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was rejected by some eighty-four publishers and film producers before being published as a paperback original by Gold Medal. Unsure about his switch to crime writing because of the trouble he had selling the book, Leonard turned again to westerns, publishing two more novels in the genre. But when the film rights to The Big Bounce were sold for fifty thousand dollars, Leonard abandoned the western genre almost completely, penning only an occasional short story here and there. Since making that decision, all of his subsequent novels have enjoyed both hardcover and paperback editions and have been sold to Hollywood; in fact, The Big Bounce was reproduced by original purchaser Warner Brothers in 2004. In Film Comment, Patrick McGilligan wrote: "Now there are as many Leonard stories being filmed in Hollywood as there were options left. On the cusp of the millennium, after nearly fifty years in the field, Leonard finds himself the modernist crime writer of choice for all the hip young filmmakers."
The typical Leonard novel, Michael Kernan explained in Washington Post, is distinguished by "guns, a killing or two or three, fights and chases and sex. Tight, clean prose, ear-perfect, whip-smart dialogue. And, just beneath the surface, an acute sense of the ridiculous." Leonard has said on several occasions that he has been less influenced by other crime writers than by such writers as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and John O'Hara. Their lean, unadorned writing style and ability to remain in the background of their stories appealed to Leonard. As he told Charles Champlin of Los Angeles Times: "I became a stylist by intentionally avoiding style. When I go back and edit and something sounds like writing, I rewrite it. I rewrite constantly, four pages in the basket for every one that survives."
Many of Leonard's crime novels feature lower-class, somewhat desperate characters hoping to make fast money with a big heist or quick scam. They "fall into crime," according to Tucker, "because it's an easier way to make money than that tedious nine-to-five." George Stade, in the New York Times Book Review, called Leonard's villains "treacherous and tricky, smart enough to outsmart themselves, driven, audacious and outrageous, capable of anything, paranoid—cunning and casually vicious—and rousing fun." Dick Roraback, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, claimed that "it is the mark of the author's craft that his characters do not seem to be created, ‘written.’ They simply are there, stalking, posturing, playing, loving, scheming, and we watch and listen and are fascinated. And appalled, yes, or approving, but always absorbed. They never let us off the hook."
Although he had been writing critically acclaimed crime novels for a decade, and his work was being adapted for the screen, Leonard had only a small cadre of fans until the early 1980s, when his novels began to attract the attention of a larger audience. With the novel Stick in 1982, Leonard suddenly found he had risen to the status of best-selling writer. One sign of this sudden success can be seen in the agreeable change in Leonard's finances that year. The paperback rights for Split Images earned him seven thousand dollars in 1981; the rights for Stick, a year later, earned fifty thousand dollars. Then, in 1983, LaBrava won an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America as the best novel of the year. Leonard's next novel, Glitz, hit the best-seller lists in 1985.
Leonard's popularity continued to increase throughout the 1990s. In Get Shorty he drew on his years of experience as a screenwriter to create an intricate story full of inside jokes about the seamy underbelly of Hollywood. The protagonist is Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark who travels to California in pursuit of a man. He is also being pursued, and in the course of the action, he becomes entangled with a third-rate producer, a washed-up actress, and several cocaine dealers. Writing in Los Angeles Times Book Review, Champlin applauded the accuracy of Leonard's portrait of the movie business, calling it "less angry than Day of the Locust but not less devastating in its tour of the industry's soiled follies and the gaminess beneath the grandeurs." Even more sweeping praise came from Whitney Balliett in New Yorker, who declared that, "book by book … the tireless and ingenious genre novelist Elmore Leonard is painting an intimate, precise, funny, frightening, and irresistible mural of the American underworld." Champlin continued in the same article: "Leonard treats [his characters] with the understanding and the detailed at- tention that Jane Austen gives her Darcys and Emma Woodhouses."
The publication of Maximum Bob in 1991 spurred reviewers on to even greater superlatives. Praising Leonard as "the greatest living writer of crime fiction," Barry Gifford announced in New York Times Book Review that with Maximum Bob "Leonard confirms … his right to a prominent place in the American noir writers' hall of fame." Gifford went on to write in the same review: "Nobody I've ever read sets up pace, mood and sound better." The title character is a Florida judge whose nickname comes from his fondness for the electric chair. Having tired of his wife, who believes she is possessed by the spirit of a girl eaten by an alligator one hundred and thirty years before, the judge attempts to drive her out of his life so that he can pursue another woman. Thus begins the story, described by Robert Carver in New Statesman & Society as "a murder chase in reverse, where the killing hasn't yet happened, so you keep trying to guess both victim and perpetrator." Carver asserted that "this is a brilliant, funny, hugely enjoyable black comedy."
Laudatory remarks continued with the publication of Rum Punch in 1992. The novel inspired Ann Arensberg to write in New York Times Book Review: "I didn't know it was possible to be as good as Elmore Leonard." Arensberg continued: "Outpacing the classic hard-boiled novel, leaving the British detective novel in the dust, Elmore Leonard has compressed Rum Punch into almost pure drama, as close to playwriting as novel writing can get (and get away with)." Washington Post Book World contributor Michael Dirda called the book "as unputdownable as anyone could wish," as well as "a novel about growing old, about the way that time changes us, about the old dream of starting over again and its cost."
Discussing Leonard's 1993 offering, Pronto, Teresa Carpenter lamented the fact that "somewhere along the line, it became fashionable to discuss Elmore Leonard in terms formerly reserved for the likes of [French novelist Gustave] Flaubert." The critic readily admitted in the New York Times Book Review that Leonard's books often "make insightful observations on contemporary culture" and "contain sharply drawn portraits of characters on the fringe of society." Other reviewers also continued to find much more than simple fun in Leonard's books. "Leonard is a literary genius," Martin Amis stated simply in his New York Times Book Review assessment of Riding the Rap, adding that the novelist "possesses gifts—of ear and eye, of timing and phrasing—that even the most indolent and snobbish masters of the mainstream must vigorously covet."
Out of Sight further cemented Leonard's reputation. The novel captures the "street, the savor and savvy, slyness and swagger of the talk that's talked on street corners and in bars, at taped-off crime scenes and in prison yards," wrote Annie Gottlieb in Nation. In Out of Sight, twenty-nine-year-old U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco—clothed in a thirty-five-hundred-dollar Chanel suit—runs into escaping convict Jack Foley. Jack reminds Karen of Harry Dean Stanton in the movie Repo Man: as she explains, both men appear to be "real guys who seemed tired of who they were, but couldn't do anything about it." As Karen and Jack get together, cop and criminal, romance ensues in a quirky, convoluted plot that involves Foley's hit on the house of an ex-junk bond trader who supposedly has millions hidden inside. Writing in the New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called Out of Sight "an absorbing story full of offbeat characters, funny incidents, vivid locales, [and] dialogue that jumps off the page."
In Cuba Libre Leonard reaches for a broader audience than those he attracted with his crime novels and westerns by combining elements of both genres. Set in Cuba around the time of the Spanish-American War, the work combines adventure, history, and romance with the requisite nefarious goings-on. In a move worthy of one of his novels, Leonard arranged to have Cuba Libre published on the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. In Cuba Libre, Ben Tyler is a cowboy of the bank-robbing kind; in his vigilantism, he only robs banks that contain the money of people who owe him money. When he grows tired of robbing banks, Tyler joins his friend Charlie Burke in a scheme to export horses to Cuba. They arrive in Havana just as the Spanish-American War breaks out, and suddenly these petty thieves are embroiled in the larger conflict. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the "three-cornered conflict"—the heroes and the sugar baron whose price they must meet, the U.S. government and Spain, and the American capitalists' interests in Cuba—"is nothing more than a classic Leonard scam writ large," with the small scam dovetailing smoothly into the larger "scams" of the political powers. Lehmann-Haupt, writing in the New York Times, found the novel "unusually rich in period atmosphere," primarily because Leonard is, "as always, so uncannily at home with the slang and terminology of the times." Lehmann-Haupt stressed that the novel is a political satire, though "Leonard is too good a story teller to let … political views shape his characters."
Be Cool is a sequel to Get Shorty and once again features dubious Hollywood mogul Chili Palmer. Always in search for film plots, Chili decides to help a struggling young singer make it in the music industry, just to see whether or not her story would make a good movie. In short order, Chili discovers that he has run afoul of the girl's previous manager, the Russian mafia, and a gang of rap artists. To quote Anthony Wilson-Smith in Maclean's, "The world that Leonard sketches has remained unchanged—a place where moral ambiguity abounds, and sudden, shocking violence is never more than a flick of the page away. Be Cool, like Get Shorty, skewers the pretensions of the entertainment industry." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Chili "remains a compulsively appealing character, … retaining his immaculate cool in lethal situations," while in Booklist David Pitt suggested that the novel "reaches a level of comic surrealism that its predecessor only approached."
In the opening scenes of Pagan Babies, the central character, Terry Dunn, contemplates a ruthless massacre that occurred before his eyes while he said his first Mass in a small church in Rwanda. Five years have passed since the massacre of his congregation, and Dunn has done little in that time except drink whiskey. When the opportunity arises to seek revenge on the murderers, however, Dunn shows his true colors: he is a petty criminal who fled America to avoid arrest for tax fraud, and he has no problem doing some murdering of his own. This tact necessitates Dunn's rapid return to his hometown of Detroit, where, with the help of an ex-convict comedienne, he concocts new and more audacious scams. An Economist contributor deemed Pagan Babies "one of Mr. Leonard's funniest books, with a typically colourful cast of oddballs." In the New York Times Book Review, Janet Maslin wrote: "The pieces of this crime tale begin falling into place so handily that Mr. Leonard might as well have hung a ‘Virtuoso at Work’ shingle on his door."
Noting that Leonard "is the only A-list crime fiction writer who doesn't rely on a series hero," Booklist critic Bill Ott praised the author for providing another in a long line of fascinating if slightly hardened protagonists in Tishomingo Blues. The novel finds high-diver Dennis Lenahan working at a Mississippi resort when he spots a murder from atop his eighty-foot ladder. Immediately conspicuous to the murderer, Dennis wants to mind his own business, but he soon finds himself caught up in a sea of events that involve not only the murderer and his status as witness: there are also Civil War reenactors, an aggressive newscaster, and the murderer's seductive and all-too-willing wife. "As usual, Leonard's characters walk onto the page as real as sunlight and shadow," praised a Publishers Weekly contributor, adding that in Tishomingo Blues "the dialogue is dead-on, the loopy story line strewn with the unexpected." Calling the novel "as full of pitch-perfect patter, bare-knuckle verbal sparring and whiplash one-liners as anything he has written," an Economist contributor noted that "the real pleasure of Tishomingo Blues is its diverse voices." Writing in the New Yorker, a contributor commented that Leonard's "hurtling plot twists keep coming, right up to the perfect rip of a finish."
Leonard's next novel tells the tale of a Detroit cop who falls for a potential suspect in a double murder. Mr. Paradise begins with the murder of a millionaire and one of two women he has hired to dress as cheerleaders and chant profanities during a college football game. Detroit cop Frank Delsa is assigned the case and soon becomes personally involved with the other cheerleader, who either participated in or merely was present at the scene of the crime. Booklist contributor Bill Ott wrote that the author "virtually invented this genre with Stick (1983), and he's been doing it effortlessly ever since. Pure entertainment." A critic in Kirkus Reviews observed that Leonard "crowds his canvas with the survivors and interested parties to another massacre across town and brings the two crimes to a slow boil."
Leonard also has produced several short story collections, such as The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories. The stories in this volume, written between the 1950s and the 1980s, display Leonard's talents as a pulp writer of westerns. "Readers will enjoy this collection of diverting tales of the old West," wrote David Keymer in the Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "these stories have aged as well as a Stetson," adding, "Every one is first-rate Leonard."
Another collection of Leonard's short stories titled When the Women Come out to Dance was published in 2002. Of the nine stories, seven previously appeared in print. The characters in the tales range from a stuntman who thinks he has a curse that causes the deaths of the women in his life to a washed-up baseball player who must strike out a casino owner in a contest to land a good-paying position as the casino's celebrity host. Keir Graff, writing in Booklist, commented that the author's "greatest accomplishment is in transforming a notoriously underread form—the short story—into something with mass appeal." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that some of the stories "are as generously plotted as most novels."
In 2004, Leonard's first children's book appeared. A Coyote's in the House tells the story of Buddy, a German shepherd who worked in films and supported his human family. Retired, Buddy is chagrined that a new poodle, Miss Betty, now seems to be the family favorite. When Buddy meets a coyote, Antwan, the two trade places. "The original characters, with their distinctive voices, mark this story as surely as an alpha male marking his territory," wrote Betty Carter in Horn Book. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "the dialogue sparkles and allows Leonard to satirize domestic life." Several reviewers also commented on the author's ability to write for children. For example, Bill Ott, writing in Booklist, noted: "A poignant ending gives the tale just the right edge," adding that the story demonstrates that the author is able to "mix comedy and reality as nimbly for a younger audience as … for adults." Another reviewer, Houston Chronicle contributor Marvin Hoffman, stated that the work "provides Leonard with an opportunity to display his considerable knowledge of Hollywood and the film business, as well as his facility with character and dialogue. It's fun to listen in on the conversation among the animal characters who are savvy to the ways of humans, in ways not reciprocated by the two-legged cast."
The Hot Kid features Carlos Webster, a part-Cuban, part-Indian U.S. Marshal who shoots to kill whenever he pulls his weapon. The story revolves around Webster and his relationship with Jack Belmont, a millionaire who also wants to be an outlaw. As Webster hunts down Belmont, the two are followed by a journalist, Tony Antonelli, who embellishes their exploits and makes them famous in the process. "As always, Leonard's prose seems effortless, his dialogue is perfect, and his humor is as dry as a moonshine martini," Graff wrote. Thomas L. Kilpatrick commented in the Library Journal that the author's "knowledge of crime history and wry humor make his novels reading experiences to savor," adding that The Hot Kid "is no exception."
Webster makes a return appearance in Up in Honey's Room. The novel centers on Honey Deal, who left her husband, Walter Schoen, in Detroit in 1939. Five years later, Honey joins Webster on a trip to question her ex-husband, a Nazi sympathizer who reads Mein Kampf. Schoen may have some important information on two high-ranking German prisoners of war who have escaped. "There are good lines of dialogue, jokes, period details, character touches, and unexpected plot reversals to reward the patient reader," wrote Jon Breen in the Weekly Standard. Writing in Booklist, Bill Ott noted that "in Honey Deal, Leonard has created yet another of his smart, ballsy, sexy, take-no-prisoners females."
Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing provides guidelines for aspiring writers. Discussing the origin of his rules in an interview with U.S. News & World Report contributor Rick Newman, Leonard recalled: "In 2000 I was asked to give a speech at the Bouchercon, where all these mystery writers get together. Before giving my speech, I thought of these 10 rules in the hotel room. I wrote them down on a yellow piece of paper. They were meant to be tongue-in-cheek." Later, Leonard revised the list for the New York Times "Writers on Writing" column. As he told Newman: "Everything was clear in my mind, and I realized they weren't as tongue-in-cheek as I thought they were. They were real rules."
In 2006 Leonard received the Cartier Diamond Dagger from his lifetime achievement in crime writing. "A prolific and versatile novelist who has worked successfully in several areas of popular fiction, Elmore Leonard is also one of those special writers who can comprehend the spirit of his time and place," observed a contributor in the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers. The critic added, "His work is distinguished above all by its understated sophistication, its assumption of the reader's awareness of the world, and the kind of apparent effortlessness that marks the true professional."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 28, 1984, Volume 34, 1985, Volume 71, 1992.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 63, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2005.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 173: American Novelists since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Geherin, David, Elmore Leonard, Continuum (New York, NY), 1989.
St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Atlantic, June, 1998, Francis X. Rocca, review of Cuba Libre, p. 111.
Blade, June 10, 2007, "Even Great Dialogue Can't Save Elmore Leonard's New Novel."
Book, March-April, 2002, Rob Brookman, "Dark Genius: Elmore Leonard Doesn't like Mysteries—but He Does Have a Thing for Bad Behavior," interview with author, p. 28.
Booklist, July, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, p. 1830; November 1, 1998, David Pitt, review of Be Cool, p. 452; December 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 604; November 1, 2002, Keir Graff, review of When the Women Come out to Dance, p. 452; November 15, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 548; May 15, 2004, Bill Ott, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 1621; March 15, 2005, Keir Graff, review of The Hot Kid, p. 1246; April 1, 2007, Bill Ott, review of Up in Honey's Room, p. 5.
Bookseller, March 10, 2006, "Leonard Takes Dagger," p. 34.
Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 1983, James Kaufman, review of LaBrava, p. B6; March 12, 1997, review of Naked Came the Manatee, p. 14.
Commentary, May, 1985, review of Glitz, p. 64.
Contra Costa Times, February 8, 2002, "Elmore Leonard Makes No Apologies for Books' Nasty Ne'er-do-wells"; February 8, 2002, "Elmore Leonard on Film."
Daily Variety, April 29, 2003, "Elmore Leonard Stopped by the Los Angeles Press Club Thursday Night to Kick off His Appearances at the Book Fest and to Sign His New Short Story Collection When the Women Come out to Play," p. 19; November 29, 2006, "Noir Event Spotlights Leonard," p. 8.
Detroit Free Press, September 30, 2003, "Detroit Author's Character Now Appearing in ‘Karen Sisco’"; June 1, 2005, "Leonard's Latest Is Stylish, Snappy and Classic."
Economist, June 19, 1999, review of Be Cool, p. 4; October 14, 2000, "New Thrillers—Hit Men," p. 106; February 23, 2002, review of Tishomingo Blues.
Entertainment Weekly, September 22, 2000, Bruce Fretts, review of Pagan Babies, p. 68; January 9, 2004, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 84.
Esquire, April, 1987, Mike Lupica, "St. Elmore's Fire," profile of author, pp. 169-74; April, 2005, "Elmore Leonard: Writer, 79, Detroit," p. 148.
Film Comment, March-April, 1998, Patrick McGilligan, "Get Dutch," p. 43.
Horn Book, September 1, 2004, Betty Carter, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 589.
Houston Chronicle, February 14, 1997, "Leonard ‘Touch’ Is Hard to Resist," p. 5; February 29, 2004, Mike Snyder, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 21; June 13, 2004, Marvin Hoffman, "Elmore Leonard Writes a Winner for the Younger Set," p. 19.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1997, review of Cuba Libre, p. 1665; November 15, 2001, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 1571; October 15, 2002, review of When the Women Come out to Dance, p. 1497; November 1, 2003, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 1290; May 15, 2004, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 494; April 15, 2007, review of Up in Honey's Room.
Kliatt, May, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 10.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 20, 2000, Chauncey Mabe, review of Pagan Babies, p. K2148; September 27, 2000, Marta Salij, "Elmore Leonard Reaches beyond Familiar Setting," p. K3888; October 4, 2000, Marta Salij, "Elmore Leonard: A Mob Mentality," p. K7276.
Library Journal, August, 1998, David Keymer, review of The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, p. 137; January, 2002, Karen Anderson, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 153; April 5, 2005, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of The Hot Kid, p. 74.
Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1984, Charles Champlin, "Elmore Leonard on Prime Crime," p. 1; January 26, 1998, Bettuane Levine, "Sparring Partners," p. E1.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 27, 1983, Grover Sales, review of Stick, p. 3; December 4, 1983, Alan Cheuse, review of LaBrava, p. 3; January 13, 1985, Dick Roraback, review of Glitz, p. 3; July 29, 1990, Charles Champlin, review of Get Shorty, p. 9.
M2 Best Books, March 3, 2006, "Diamond Dagger Awarded to Elmore Leonard."
Maclean's, January 19, 1987, review of Bandits, p. 61; March 16, 1998, Brian Bethune, review of Cuba Libre, p. 63; March 29, 1999, Anthony Wilson-Smith, "The Master of Crime: Elmore Leonard's 35th Novel Shows Him at the Top of His Form," p. 70.
Nation, December 4, 1995, Annie Gottlieb, review of Out of Sight, p. 724.
New Republic, November 13, 1995, review of Get Shorty, p. 32.
New Statesman & Society, October 11, 1991, Robert Carver, review of Maximum Bob, p. 25; November 13, 1992, John Williams, review of Rum Punch, p. 36.
Newsweek, March 22, 1982, review of Split Images, p. 76; July 11, 1983, review of Stick, p. 71; November 14, 1983, review of LaBrava, p. 114; July 16, 2007, "A Life in Books: Elmore Leonard," p. 12.
New Yorker, September 3, 1990, review of Get Shorty, pp. 106-107; February 11, 2002, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 86.
New York Times, June 11, 1982, review of Cat Chaser, p. 25; April 28, 1983, review of Stick, p. 25; October 7, 1983, review of LaBrava, p. 25; May 2, 1988, review of Freaky Deaky, p. 16; July 25, 1991, review of Maximum Bob, p. B2; September 23, 1993, review of Pronto, p. B2; May 11, 1995, review of Riding the Rap, p. B4; October 20, 1995, "Film Review; a Hollywood Innocent Who's Anything But"; August 15, 1996, review of Out of Sight, p. B5; August 15, 1996, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Out of Sight, p. B5; January 22, 1998, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Viva la Genre! Elmore Leonard Visits Old Havana"; February 11, 1999, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Get Musical: Chili Palmer's Latest Movie Idea"; September 7, 2000, Janet Maslin, "‘New Elmore Leonard’? ‘Yeah. You Know. Punks,’" review of Pagan Babies, p. E9.
New York Times Book Review, May 22, 1977, review of Unknown Man No. 89, p. 13; September 5, 1982, review of Cat Chaser, p. 20; March 6, 1983, George Stade, review of Stick, p. 11; February 10, 1985, review of Glitz, p. 7; January 4, 1987, review of Bandits, p. 7; July 28, 1991, Barry Gifford, review of Maximum Bob, p. 8; August 16, 1992, Ann Arensberg, review of Rum Punch, p. 13; October 17, 1993, Teresa Carpenter, review of Pronto, p. 39; May 14, 1995, Martin Amis, review of Riding the Rap, p. 7; September 8, 1996, review of Out of Sight, p. 8; September 20, 1998, Charles Salzberg, review of The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, p. 24; February 21, 1999, Kinky Friedman, "The Palmer Method," p. 10; September 17, 2000, Bruce DeSilva, "Turned Collar"; May 8, 2005, "The Old Master," p. 1.
People, November 21, 1983, review of LaBrava, p. 22; February 11, 1985, Campbell Geeslin, review of Glitz, p. 16; January 26, 1987, Campbell Geeslin, review of Bandits, p. 20; July 11, 1988, Ralph Novak, review of Freaky Deaky, p. 32; May 1, 1989, Ralph Novak, review of Killshot, p. 39; March 24, 1997, "Let George Do It," p. 35; January 26, 2004, Steve Dougherty, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 43.
Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23, 2002, review of When the Women Come out to Dance; May 6, 2007, "The Keen-eyed Storyteller Spins Another Tall One."
Publishers Weekly, February 25, 1983, review of Stick, p. 32; February 25, 1983, Bill Dunn, "Elmore Leonard," interview with author; June 15, 1990, review of Get Shorty, p. 55; June 10, 1996, review of Out of Sight, p. 84; August 3, 1998, review of The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories, p. 74; November 16, 1998, review of Be Cool, p. 52; December 10, 2001, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 48; January 21, 2002, "Dutch in Detroit: The Creator of Crime Novel Cool Talks about His Work and Life, and How He Progressed from a 29 Cent Scripto to a Mont Blanc," p. 52; November 24, 2003, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 42; May 17, 2004, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 51; March 28, 2005, review of The Hot Kid, p. 55; April 2, 2007, review of Up in Honey's Room, p. 40.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, August 2, 1996, "Go Back to the Source, ‘Pronto.’" p. 15.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Ellen Fader, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 171.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 20, 2000, Chauncey Mabe, review of Pagan Babies; February 4, 2004, "Elmore Leonard's Biggest Secret? ‘I Keep My Nose out of It and Let the Characters Talk.’"
Time, February 11, 1985, R.Z. Sheppard, review of Glitz, p. 88; January 12, 1987, Paul Gray, review of Bandits, p. 72; May 16, 1988, review of Freaky Deaky, p. 95; June 20, 2005, "10 Questions for Elmore Leonard," p. 6.
Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 1986, review of Unknown Man No. 89, p. 1370; November 30, 1990, review of Get Shorty, p. 1288; September 27, 1991, review of Maximum Bob, p. 24; October 30, 1992, review of Rum Punch, p. 21; November 5, 1993, review of Pronto, p. 20.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 9, 1989, review of Killshot, p. 1.
TV Guide, August 1, 1998, Lawrence Grobel, "Get Elmore!," p. 23.
USA Today, November 15, 2007, "Leonard Fans Get to Share Writing Tips," p. 5.
U.S. News & World Report, October 22, 2007, Rick Newman, "A Q&A with Novelist Elmore Leonard."
Village Voice, February 23, 1982, review of The Switch, p. 41.
Washington Post, February 6, 1985, Michael Kernan, "Quiet Man of Mystery: For Author Elmore Leonard, a Plot of Gold in ‘Glitz,’" and Jonathan Yardley, review of Glitz, p. C1.
Washington Post Book World, July 19, 1992, Michael Dirda, review of Rum Punch, p. 2.
Weekly Standard, June 25, 2007, Jon Breen, "A Motown Mystery; Even Lesser Leonard Is Well Worth a Read."
Writer, November, 1997, "A Conversation with—Elmore Leonard," p. 22; January, 2005, "Elmore Leonard," p. 8.
Official Elmore Leonard Web site,http://www.elmoreleonard.com (January 7, 2008).
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (October 19, 2000), biographical information and reviews.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/people/ (September 28, 1999), Sean Elder, interview with Elmore Leonard.