A Tribute

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A Tribute to Elmore Leonard
Popular novelist and screenwriter
(October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013

When Elmore Leonard passed away in August, the literary and screen world lost a much-admired and prolific writer, who brought countless hours of reading and viewing pleasure to his many readers and fans.

His very long writing career began with short stories in the early 1950s. He soon went on to write novels and screenplays.

His first novel was a western titled The Bounty Hunters published in 1953. He wrote four more westerns before switching to the crime/suspense genre. A total of five westerns were made into major movies, including Hombre (1967) and one of his short stories, 3:10 to Yuma. This short story was adapted twice, once in 1957 and again in 2007.

He wrote 45 novels, mostly in the crime/suspense genre. Sixteen of his novels in this genre were made into movies between 1969 and 2013, including Rum Punch with a film title of Jackie Brown (1997), Get Shorty (1995) and Out of Sight (1998). Four novels were made into TV movies, including Gold Coast (1997) and his breakout novel, Glitz (1988). Two TV series were based on Leonard’s novels, Maximum Bob (1998) and Karen Sisco (2003). Four more of his novels were adapted as episodes of the TV series Justified.

During his career, Leonard wrote the screenplays for six of his novels: The Moonshine War (1970); Joe Kidd (1972); Mr. Majestyk (1974); Stick (1985); 52 Pick-Up (1986); and Cat Chaser (1989). He co-wrote the screenplay for The Rosary Murders. He also wrote the scripts for two TV series that were not based on his novels: High Noon, Part II and Desperado.

He received several awards that acknowledged his writing achievements: 1992 Grand Master Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; 2008 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award; 2010 Peabody Award; and 2012 National Book Award.

There were few years during his career that he did not produce a book or screenplay. At the time of his death at age 87, he was working on yet another novel.

Editor’s Thoughts: I first became acquainted with Elmore Leonard’s writing, like many others, with his novel, Glitz. I was fascinated by the noir-like story and characters. But it was his masterful use of dialog that really grabbed me.

Leonard had written for many years before Glitz. So, in this time period before online bookstores, I pursued acquiring as many of his previous novels as possible. Then, like many others, I waited for each novel to come out. I was never disappointed. The books were always peppered with unforgettable, often eccentric, usually dogged characters delivering tough dialog in stories with surprising outcomes. I was always happy when an Elmore Leonard novel was adapted for film, especially if he wrote the screenplay.

During a recent interview, one of Leonard’s sons said he may pick up where his father left off and finish the last novel. Personally, I hope he decides to do this. I think it would be a great tribute to his hard-working father for his last writing effort to come to fruition. And it would be a gift to Elmore Leonard fans to have one more novel to anticipate, read, savor and remember.

—Mary McCord, Editor