Nationality: American. Born: New Orleans, Louisiana, 11 October 1925. Education: The University of Detroit, 1946-50, Ph.B. in English 1950. Military Service: Served in the United States Naval Reserve, 1943-46. Family: Married 1) Beverly Cline in 1949 (divorced 1977); 2) Joan Shepard in 1979 (died 1993), two daughters and three sons; 3) Christine Kent in 1993. Career: Copywriter, Campbell Ewald advertising agency, Detroit, 1950-61; writer of industrial and educational films, 1961-63; director, Elmore Leonard Advertising Company, 1963-66. Since 1967 full-time writer. Awards: Western Writers of America award, 1977; Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe award, 1984; Michigan Foundation for the Arts award, 1985; Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, 1992. Agent: Michael Siegel and Associates, 502 Tenth St., Santa Monica, California 90402, U.S.A.
The Bounty Hunters. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1953; London, Hale, 1956.
The Law at Randado. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1955; London, Hale, 1957.
Escape from Five Shadows. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1956; London, Hale, 1957.
Last Stand at Saber River. New York, Dell, 1959; as Lawless River, London, Hale, 1959; as Stand on the Saber, London, Corgi, 1960.
Hombre. New York, Ballantine, and London, Hale, 1961.
Valdez Is Coming. London, Hale, 1969; New York, Fawcett, 1970.
The Big Bounce. New York, Fawcett, and London, Hale, 1969.
The Moonshine War. New York, Doubleday, 1969; London, Hale, 1970.
Forty Lashes Less One. New York, Bantam, 1972.
Mr. Majestyk (novelization of screenplay). New York, Dell, 1974; London, Penguin, 1986.
Fifty-Two Pickup. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Secker and Warburg, 1974.
Swag. New York, Delacorte Press, 1976; London, Penguin, 1986; as Ryan's Rules, New York, Dell, 1976.
The Hunted. New York, Delacorte Press, 1977; London, Secker and Warburg, 1978.
Unknown Man No. 89. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Secker and Warburg, 1977.
The Switch. New York, Bantam, 1978; London, Secker and Warburg, 1979.
Gunsights. New York, Bantam, 1979.
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit. New York, Arbor House, 1980; London, W.H. Allen, 1981.
Gold Coast. New York, Bantam, 1980; London, W.H. Allen, 1982. Split Images. New York, Arbor House, 1982; London, W.H. Allen, 1983.
Cat Chaser. New York, Arbor House, 1982; London, Viking, 1986.
Stick. New York, Arbor House, 1983; London, Allen Lane, 1984.
LaBrava. New York, Arbor House, 1983; London, Viking Press, 1984.
Glitz. New York, Arbor House, and London, Viking, 1985.
Bandits. New York, Arbor House, and London, Viking, 1987.
Touch. New York, Arbor House, 1987; London, Viking, 1988.
Freaky Deaky. New York, Arbor House, and London, Viking, 1988.
Killshot. New York, Arbor House, and London, Viking, 1989.
Get Shorty. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Viking, 1990.
Maximum Bob. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Viking, 1991.
Rum Punch. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Viking, 1992.
Pronto. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Viking, 1993.
Riding the Rap. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Viking, 1995.
Out of Sight. New York, Delacorte Press, 1996.
Cuba Libre. New York, Delacorte Press, 1998.
Be Cool. New York, Delacorte Press, 1999.
Pagan Babies. New York, Delacorte Press, 2000.
Uncollected Short Stories
"Trail of the Apache," in Argosy (New York), December 1951.
"Red Hell Hits Canyon Diablo," in Ten Story Western, 1952.
"Apache Medicine," in Dime Western, May 1952.
"You Never See Apaches," in Dime Western, September 1952.
"Cavalry Boots," in Zane Grey's Western (New York), December 1952.
"Long Night," in Zane Grey's Western 18 (London).
"The Rustlers," in Zane Grey's Western 29 (London), 1953.
"Under the Friar's Ledge," in Dime Western, January 1953.
"The Last Shot," in Fifteen Western Tales, September 1953.
"Trouble at Rindo's Station," in Argosy (New York), October 1953.
"Blood Money" in Western Story (London), February 1954.
"Saint with a Six-Gun," in Frontier, edited by Luke Short. New York, Bantam, 1955.
"3:10 to Yuma," in The Killers, edited by Peter Dawson. New York, Bantam, 1955.
"The Hard Way," in Branded West, edited by Don Ward. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1956.
"No Man's Gun," in Western Story (London), May 1956.
"Moment of Vengeance," in Colt's Law, edited by Luke Short. New York, Bantam, 1957.
"The Tall T," in The Tall T and Other Western Adventures. New York, Avon, 1957.
"The Rancher's Lady," in Wild Streets, edited by Don Ward. New York, Doubleday, 1958.
"Only Good Ones," in Western Roundup, edited by Nelson Nye. New York, Macmillan, 1961.
"The Boy Who Smiled," in The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Arbor House, 1982.
"The Nagual," in The Cowboys, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Fawcett, 1985.
"The Captive," in The Second Reel West, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Doubleday, 1985.
"Law of the Hunted Ones," in Wild Westerns, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Walker, 1986.
"The Colonel's Lady," in The Horse Soldiers, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Fawcett, 1987.
"Jugged" in The Gunfighters, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. New York, Fawcett, 1987.
"The Big Hunt," in More Wild Westerns, edited by Bill Pronzini. New York, Walker, 1989.
The Moonshine War, 1970; Joe Kidd, 1972; Mr. Majestyk (with Joseph Stinson), 1974; Stick (with John Steppling), 1985.
High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane, 1980.*
Get Shorty, 1995; Jackie Brown, 1997; Last Stand at Saber River, 1997; Out of Sight, 1998.
University of Detroit Library.
Elmore Leonard by David Geherin, New York, Ungar-Continuum, 1989; Elmore Leonard by James E. Devlin, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1999.* * *
Elmore Leonard is one of those rare authors who began as a pulp writer and ended top of the bestseller lists. More impressive, however, is his feat of moving from being considered a mere genre novelist to being credited with elevating the crime novel to new levels of artistic achievement.
Leonard began as a writer of Westerns, turning out stories for the pulps that still flourished in the 1950s. One of his early novels, Hombre, the story of a white man raised by Indians whose bravery saves the lives of his fellow stagecoach passengers, was selected by the Western Writers of America as one of the twenty-five best Westerns of all time.
With The Big Bounce in 1969, Leonard switched to writing about the contemporary scene. Set in the author's home state of Michigan, the novel describes the dangerous encounter between Jack Ryan, an ex-convict, and Nancy Hayes, a restless 19-year-old with a thirst for thrills. The Big Bounce highlights the two kinds of characters that would become trademarks of Leonard's fiction: those who run afoul of the law, and those who become involved with those who do.
In 1972, after reading George V. Higgins's The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a comic novel about the activities of a small-time Boston hoodlum narrated through colorful dialogue and extended monologues, Leonard began to experiment with new ways of telling his stories. He found that by relying more on dialogue he could effectively shift the burden of storytelling to his characters. The result was Fifty-Two Pickup, his first major success as a crime novelist.
Fifty-Two Pickup is the story of a Michigan businessman named Harry Mitchell who is being framed by a trio of low-life characters for the murder of his mistress. Like many of Leonard's protagonists, Mitchell is an easygoing guy until pushed. Then he takes control of the situation and single-handedly extricates himself from his predicament.
In 1978, Leonard was commissioned by a local newspaper to write a non-fiction profile of the Detroit police. Though he planned to spend only a few days hanging around police headquarters, he ended up staying for two and a half months, soaking up atmosphere, listening to the cops and criminals, lawyers and witnesses who passed through the squad room. This rich assortment of colorful characters provided a new source for the distinctive sounds and speech rhythms that would heighten the realism of his fiction.
The first novel that resulted from this experience was City Primeval, also his first book to feature a policeman as protagonist. Raymond Cruz, a Detroit Police Homicide Lieutenant, crosses paths with Clement Mansell, a killer known (with ample reason) as the "Oklahoma Wildman." Their final showdown reads like the climax to one of Leonard's early Westerns. (Appropriately, the novel is subtitled High Noon in Detroit. ) Besides exciting action, the novel also owes its success to its authentic characters and unflinching realism.
Convinced of the benefits of research on his fiction, Leonard now began employing a part-time researcher to assist him in his efforts. No amount of background research can guarantee a novel's success. However, combined with Leonard's gift for creating fresh and believable characters and dialogue that unerringly rings true, research provides a factual grounding that enhances an already solid core of believability. Such a combination resulted in some of the most notable crime novels in recent American fiction.
Glitz is a good example. Vincent Mora is an off-duty Miami policeman who is recuperating from a bullet wound in sunny Puerto Rico. There he meets and takes a liking to a young woman named Iris Ruiz. When she plunges to her death from a hotel room in Atlantic City, where she has gone to work as a hostess, Mora heads north to investigate. Soon he is engaged in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Teddy Magyk, a sociopathic ex-convict who seeks revenge on Mora for having sent him to prison.
Thanks to Leonard's extensive research, the reader enjoys an insider's peek behind the scenes at the Atlantic City casinos and gets to meet the distinctive inhabitants of that world. Vincent Mora and Teddy Magyk give life to Glitz, while the setting and colorful supporting cast flesh it out in vivid detail.
Leonard employs a similar recipe with equal success in novels like Stick, LaBrava, Bandits, Freaky Deaky, Get Shorty, Rum Punch, and Be Cool. However, he is careful never to repeat a stale formula. The settings vary from Miami Beach to New Orleans to Hollywood and back to Detroit, and each novel introduces a fresh cast of memorable characters and plots filled with unpredictable twists.
Though his novels are about serious—often deadly—matters, they also reveal Leonard's gift for comedy, especially comic dialogue. Leonard has a talent for mimicking voices that capture the distinctive personality of the speaker. Once these characters open their mouths, they open their minds, and the result is fiction filled with amusingly offbeat points of view.
In several of his recent novels, Leonard has introduced a fresh new element—smart, independent women—to his usual colorful mix of offbeat characters. Rum Punch, for example, centers around Jackie Burke (re-named Jackie Brown in the Quentin Tarentino film version of the novel), a forty-four-year old flight attendant who is arrested when the police find cocaine someone has hidden in the money she has been hired to transport from the Bahamas to the U.S. on her flights. Taking matters into her own hands, she concocts an elaborate shell game that outfoxes both the feds and the killer whose money she was carrying. Out of Sight features Karen Sisco, a deputy U.S. marshal who deftly manages to balance her attraction to an escaped convict into whose path she stumbles with her sworn duties as a law enforcement officer.
Leonard is sometimes mistakenly categorized as a mystery writer. Though suspenseful, his novels contain little mystery. Instead, they are novels about character and, because many of those characters are either criminals or policemen, novels about crime. The best of them are rich in texture, authentic in detail, and colorful in the richness and variety of character and voice. Over the past three decades, Leonard has produced an impressive body of fiction that sets the standard for what the crime novel in the hands of a talented artist is capable of achieving.
Nationality: British. Born: New Delhi, India, 7 January 1946. Educated in Botswana and England. Family: Married 1) Denis Pack-Beresford (divorced); 2) Daniel Cromer (divorced), one daughter and one son; 3) Kemp Battle, one daughter and one son. Career: Advertising copywriter, Garland Compton Ltd., 1966-68, Norman Craig and Kummel, 1969-71, Collett Dickenson and Pearce, 1971-72, Nadler Larimer and Cromer, 1972-74, all London. Freelance writer, 1974-85. Awards: Geoffrey Faber Memorial prize, 1977. Address: 2805 Main Street, Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648, U.S.A.
The Story of the Weasel. London, Hart Davis, 1976; as Relations, New York, Mason Charter, 1977.
Columba. London, Hart Davis, 1977; New York, Panther House, 1979.
Magdalene. London, Hart Davis, 1978; New York, Evans, 1979.
Heart of the River. London, Granada, 1982; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1983.
The Banquet. London, Allen Lane, 1983; New Haven, Connecticut, Ticknor and Fields, 1984.
A Perfect Woman. London, Allen Lane, 1984; New York, Ticknor and Fields, 1985.
The Innocents. London, Viking, and New York, Scribner, 1986.
The Widow. London, Heinemann, 1989.* * *
She decided she'd read more than enough of those well-balanced, neatly clipped English parochial novels where the greatest excitement was reading the last page and being done with the damn thing.
(Heart of the River)
With this resolution, Constance, Caroline Slaughter's heroine, throws her paperback "with a flabby flop" into the swimming pool. It is not hard to see the author behind the character. Slaughter herself first grasps and then rejects the English paperback, casting off the norms of the genre, transmuting it with her own fierce emotional vitality. Her art sheds, easily but with far reaching consequences, the conventions of romantic fiction, creating novels which are characterized by a naked honesty which is at times almost confessional in its intimacy. While her themes are those of paperback romances—love, relationships, and the family—her quest for psychological reality leaves the art of idealization and euphemism far behind. Her art shatters the convenient collusion between romance writer and reader as to what human beings feel.
Slaughter portrays the dark knots of bitterness and vulnerability, pain and need, which lie within the individual psyche. Her vision strikes dramatic contrasts to fictional norms. One example of this is an unusual frankness in her treatment of sex. Another fictional taboo to be broken is that of monogamous love. Constance in Heart of the River (as Humphrey in A Perfect Woman ) is torn by love for more than one person. The violence of our needs and our own inner contradictions destroy the easy assumptions about the consequences of falling in love.
The thirst for psychological honesty—and Slaughter is acutely psychologically aware—draws her work deeper and deeper into the inner wounds from which our compulsive emotions spring: the traumas of childhood and early sexual experience, the relationship with the mother, the secrets passed from one generation to another within the family. The epigraph to Heart of the River, from Eliot, is appropriate to all her work:
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
While not making explicit use of psychoanalysis, there is an impulse within Slaughter's work which parallels that of the analyst: the search for inner knowledge, for discovery of, and confrontation with, the secrets hidden within the self. Her plots are driven not only by the momentum of unfolding action, but by that of unfolding knowledge. As in classical tragedy, there is a pattern of concealment and revelation leading to eventual denouement and catharsis. At the climax of her novels are realizations: both in the sense of comprehension, and in the sense of fulfillment of what has long lain hidden. At the same time as characters approach the crisis of their lives they (and the reader) approach understanding of the seeds of that crisis, often sown far in the past. In Heart of the River Slaughter quotes Shiva Naipaul, "To rediscover a lost past is to rediscover an essential part of the self." Such rediscovery however, as in The Innocents and The Banquet, can be destructive as well as enlightening.
As the analyst's sensitivity and acuteness are brought to bear on individuals, so Slaughter also scrutinizes tensions between people, particularly between lovers. The Banquet and A Perfect Woman show how our deepest needs become focused on the objects of erotic attraction; The Widow and Heart of the River demonstrate the violent battles which take place within relationships. We feel, too, the rage of the lover against those parts of the beloved which cannot be contained by a relationship. Such tension and mutual incomprehension are cleverly illustrated by Slaughter's technique of split narratives, where each of the protagonists tells a segment of story in turn.
The psychological conflicts which fascinate Slaughter find logical extension in the split personality of Bella in The Widow. Similarly, the psychological violence Slaughter records is writ large in the act of homicide; in men who kill women (Harold in The Banquet ) and in women who kill men (Rebecca in The Widow, Zelda in The Innocents ). The characters who commit these acts are not incomprehensible monsters: they are themselves the heroes and heroines, and their stories are recounted from within, and in their own words. They are acted upon by the same compulsions and passions which drive us all.
Slaughter's novels are at the same time love stories and dispatches from a war between women and men, a war for the goals of fulfillment and the satisfaction of emotional need. This war spills over into sexual politics. The Widow shows the dissociation between two personalities: Rebecca, an earthy, home-loving woman in floral dresses, and Bella, a severe, cerebral career-minded surgeon. The war is however primarily fought out between lovers. Constance's weary acknowledgment of "the sadomasochistic cycle" of her relationship highlights an underlying connection between love and pain. We, the readers, are implicated in this war, and are brought to identify with the characters who take it to its most violent extreme. In The Banquet Slaughter teases the reader with sensuous prose which anticipates the fulfillment of exquisite fantasies:
Then she opened her lips and the red fruit disappeared into the wet dome of her mouth; he watched with intensity, as though at any moment he expected the pink flesh to cry out … the seductive breath of the warm strawberries pierced him with longing; the juices ran into the corners of her lips and it was agonizing not to kiss her.
The sheer eroticism of Harold's descriptions, and his sensitivity, draw us into his disturbed mind. Similarly in The Widow, Bella succeeds in showing that Joseph, the psychiatrist, is as incomplete and as broken as she is: that all face the same inner search and struggle for wholeness.
Slaughter's power to portray a particular place and culture is considerable, whether it be rich suburban life in Britain of the 1980s, or the heat and brutality of Africa in revolution. It is however in setting new standards of emotional veracity that her greatest achievement lies.