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Elmore (John Jr.) Leonard (1925-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1925, in New Orleans, LA; married Beverly Cline, July 30, Elmore Leonard 1949 (divorced May 24, 1977); Education: University of Detroit, Ph.B., 1950. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Agent—Michael Siegel, Michael Siegel & Associates, 11532 Thurston Circle, 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 of film Tishomingo Blues, 2002. Military service: U.S. Naval Reserve, 1943-46.


Writers Guild of America West, Authors League of America, Authors Guild.

Honors Awards

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 of the Arts Award, 1985; Hammett Prize, International Association of Crime Writers, 1991, for Maximum Bob; Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, 1992; Honorary Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 1996, University of Detroit Mercy, 1997, and University of Michigan, 2000.



A Coyote's in the House, HarperEntertainment (New York, NY), 2004.


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.

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 Complete Western Novels of Elmore Leonard, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.


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 Pick-up (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.

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.

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.

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.

Maximum Bob, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.

Rum Punch, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.

Three Complete Novels (contains LaBrava, Cat Chaser, and Split Images ), Wings Books (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.


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 Encyclopedia Britannica Films, including Settlement of the Mississippi Valley, Boy of Spain, Frontier Boy, and Julius Caesar, and of a recruiting film for the Franciscans.


When the Women Come out to Dance (short fiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.

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 Dime Western, Argosy, Saturday Evening Post, Zane Grey's Western Magazine, and other publications.


The novelette 3:10 to Yuma was filmed by Columbia Pictures, 1957; 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 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/United Artists, 1995; Touch was filmed by Lumiere, 1996; Rum Punch was adapted for film by Quentin Tarantino as Jackie Brown, 1997; Out of Sight, directed by Steven Soderbergh, screenplay by Scott Frank, was filmed by Universal, 1998; 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 filmed by MGM, 2005; Tishomingo Blues was adapted for film in 2005; Killshot was adapted for film in 2006. Many of Leonard's novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including Mr. Paradise, and A Coyote's in the House, both Harper Audio, 2004.

Work in Progress

A sequel to The Hot Kid.


A popular crime novelist who has seen several of his novels become feature films, Elmore Leonard carries on the tradition of the pulp novelists of the early twentieth century. Considered among the best authors writing modern crime fiction, he has earned particular praise for his dark humor and for a prose style that reflects the gritty realities of modern life. While his fame rests on such best-selling novels as Get Shorty, Tishomingo Blues, and Mr. Paradise, Leonard started his career penning genre Westerns; he has also authored screenplay adaptations of his novels and has tackled a new format—children's books—with the 2004 novel A Coyote's in the House.

Born in Louisiana, Leonard has lived in Detroit, Michigan for most of his life, and graduated from the University of Detroit in 1950. He began his writing career a few years later and, realizing where the strongest market was, began penning western stories for pulp magazines. His first sale was the novelette Apache Agent, for which Argosy magazine paid ninety dollars. Moving to longer works, he published five western novels while also working full time as an advertising copywriter. While copywriting did not appeal to the young author, as Bill Dunn noted in Publishers Weekly, "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 western genre fiction was on the decline, and Leonard found the market for his fiction drying up. For several years he devoted his time to freelance copywriting, working frequently for the company that manufactured Hurst gear shifters, a popular feature in hot rod cars. He also wrote scripts for industrial films for Detroit-area companies and educational films for Encyclopedia Britannica at one thousand dollars apiece. This all ended in 1965, when his agent sold the film rights to Leonard's novel Hombre for ten thousand dollars.

Once again with enough of a financial cushion to take the risk with fiction, Leonard returned to writing novels, this time working in the mystery-suspense genre, and his urban detectives approached their task with the same grim determination and glib wisecracking as had his gunfighters. The typical Leonard novel, Michael Kernan explained in the 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's books are often peopled by anxious, lower-class characters hoping to make some quick money in a big heist or quickie scam. Inevitably, they "fall into crime," as Tucker explained, "because it's an easier way to make money than that tedious nine-to-five." George Stade, writing 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 … and rousing fun."

Working in a new genre, Leonard had a slow start; his first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was rejected by some eighty-four publishers and film producers before being released as a paperback original by Gold Medal in 1969. Over a decade later Stick signaled that its author had made it to bestselling writer status. One of Leonard's best-known novels is Get Shorty, about Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark who travels to Hollywood in pursuit of a man but who becomes entangled with a third-rate film producer, a washed-up actress, and several cocaine dealers. Palmer returns in Be Cool as Chili helps the career of a struggling young singer in the hopes that there is a good film plot in it, but finds himself up against the young woman'g previous manager, the Russian mob, and a gang of rappers. In the novel Maximum Bob a Florida judge—his nickname reflects his fondness for the electric chair—attempts to drive his wife away so that he can pursue a more interesting woman. In Out of Sight twenty-nine-year-old U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco runs into escaping convict Jack Foley. Romance ensues in a quirky, convoluted plot that involves Foley's raid on the home of an ex-junk bond trader who supposedly has millions of dollars hidden inside. Set in Cuba around the time of the Spanish-American War, Cuba Libre combines adventure, history, and romance in the story of Ben Tyler, a bank-robbing vigilante who only robs banks that contain the money of folks who owe him money.

The veteran crime novelist's "knack for creating intriguing, strong characters is evident in his first children's book," according to School Library Journal reviewer Ellen Fader. A Coyote's in the House, designed for middle-grade readers, follows jive-talking, gang-leading coyote Antwan, as he meets up with two canine residents of posh Hollywood Hills: German shepherd Buddy, a creaky-legged former film star, and champion poodle Miss Betty. Buddy has had enough of the good life, and talks Antwan into changing places so that the older dog can enjoy a more eventful life on the streets. Taken in by Buddy's owners, who believe Antwan to be a stray dog, the newly named "Timmy" settles down in his ritzy new digs in an enjoyable proximity to the fetching Miss Betty, helping friend Buddy regain his former confidence in the process. Praising Leonard's "quirky characters; snappy dialogue; short, visual scenes; and tight plotting," Horn Book reviewer Betty Carter dubbed A Coyote's in the House a "blue-ribbon, canine version" of The Prince and the Pauper, nineteenth-century American humorist Mark Twain's classic novel about trading identities and social class. Noting that the novel's main strength is the pithy dialogue among the dogs, Bill Ott concluded in a Booklist review that while some of Leonard's dry humor might fall under the radar of younger readers, the book reveals that the author "can mix comedy and reality as nimbly for a younger audience as he does for adults."

Interestingly, although he has spent much of his career penning long fiction, Leonard found novels intimidating as a child. As he once noted, he now tries to spare his readers the same situation by working "to leave out the boring parts" in his books. A disciplined author, Leonard writes every day of the week, longhand, sitting at a desk in the corner of his living room.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 28, 1984, Volume 34, 1985, Volume 71, 1992.

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.


American Film, December, 1984.

Armchair Detective, winter, 1986; spring, 1986; winter, 1989.

Atlantic Monthly, June, 1998, Francis X. Rocca, review of Cuba Libre, p. 111.

Book, March-April, 2002, Rob Brookman, interview with Leonard, p. 28.

Booklist, 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.

Boston Globe, July 30, 1992, p. 80; November 14, 1993, p. 7.

Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1981; April 8, 1983; December 8, 1983; February 7, 1985.

Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 1983; March 12, 1997.

Commentary, May, 1985, pp. 64, 66-67.

Detroiter, June, 1974, Gay Rubin, interview with Leonard.

Detroit News, February 23, 1982; October 23, 1983.

Economist (US), 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, pp. 169-174.

Film Comment, March-April, 1998, Patrick McGilligan, "Get Dutch," p. 43.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 14, 1985.

Horn Book, September-October, 2004, Betty Carter, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 589.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1997, 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.

Kliatt, May, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 10.

Library Journal, January, 2002, Karen Anderson, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 153; April 15, 2005, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of The Hot Kid, p. 74.

Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1984; May 4, 1988; January 26, 1998.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 27, 1983; December 4, 1983; January 13, 1985; August 30, 1987, pp. 2, 8; April 23, 1989, p. 14; July 29, 1990, p. 9; August 4, 1991, pp. 2, 9; October 24, 1994, p. 8; May 14, 1995, p. 1.

Maclean's, January 19, 1987; 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, p. 32; January 26, 1998.

New Statesman & Society, October 11, 1991; November 13, 1992.

Newsweek, March 22, 1982; July 11, 1983; November 14, 1983; April 22, 1985, pp. 62-64, 67.

New Yorker, September 3, 1990, pp. 106-7; October 23, 1995, p. 96; September 30, 1996; January 12, 1998; January 26, 1998; February 11, 2002, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 86.

New York Times, June 11, 1982; April 28, 1983; October 7, 1983; October 29, 1983; April 26, 1985; May 2, 1988; July 25, 1991, p. C18; September 23, 1993, p. C18; May 11, 1995; February 15, 1996; August 15, 1996; January 18, 1997; February 14, 1997; June 7, 1997; December 24, 1997; 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.'"

New York Times Book Review, May 22, 1977; September 5, 1982; March 6, 1983; December 27, 1983; February 10, 1985, p. 7; January 4, 1987, p. 7; July 29, 1990, pp. 1, 28; July 28, 1991, p. 8; August 16, 1992, p. 13; October 17, 1993, p. 39; May 14, 1995, p. 7; September 8, 1996; January 22, 1998; February 8, 1998; September 20, 1998, Charles Salzberg, review of The Tonto Woman, p. 24; February 21, 1999, Kinky Friedman, "The Palmer Method," p. 10; September 17, 2000, Bruce DeSilva, "Turned Collar."

New York Times Magazine, November 16, 1997.

People, January 26, 2004, Steve Dougherty, review of Mr. Paradise, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, February 25, 1983; June 15, 1990, p. 55; June 10, 1996, p. 84; November 16, 1998, review of Be Cool, p. 52; December 10, 2001, review of Tishomingo Blues, p. 48; January 21, 2002, interview with Leonard, 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.

School Library Journal, Ellen Fader, review of A Coyote's in the House, p. 171.

Time, May 28, 1984, pp. 84, 86; February 24, 1997; August 18, 1997; January 12, 1998; June 20, 2005, Philip Elmer-DeWitt, interview with Leonard, p. 6.

Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 1986, p. 1370; November 30, 1990, p. 1287; September 27, 1991, p. 24; October 30, 1992, p. 21; November 5, 1993, p. 20.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 10, 1983; October 30, 1983; April 9, 1989, pp. 1, 4; May 21, 1995, p. 5.

Village Voice, February 23, 1982, Ken Tucker.

Wall Street Journal, January 29, 1998.

Washington Post, October 6, 1980; February 6, 1985.

Washington Post Book World, February 7, 1982; July 4, 1982; February 20, 1983; November 13, 1983; December 28, 1986, p. 3; August 23, 1987, pp. 1-2; May 1, 1988; July 14, 1991, pp. 1-2; July 19, 1992, p. 2.


Elmore Leonard Home Page, http://www.elmoreleonard.com (July 25, 2005).

Mr. Showbiz, http://mrshowbiz.go.com/ (October 19, 2000), Rick Schultz, interview with Leonard.

Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (September 28, 1999), Sean Elder, interview with Leonard.*

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