Elmore Leonard biography
SynopsisElmore Leonard was inspired by Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. His determination to be a writer stayed with him through a stint in the Navy and a job in advertising. His early published work was mostly westerns, including 3:10 to Yuma. When that genre became less popular, Leonard turned to crime novels set in Detroit, including Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and Out of Sight.
Writer. Born Elmore John Leonard, Jr. on October 11, 1925, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The early part of Leonard's youth was largely defined by his family's constant moves, which were the result of his father's job as a site locator for General Motors. Not long after he turned 9, however, Leonard's family found a permanent home in Detroit, Michigan.
It was there that Leonard got hooked on a serialization of the Erich Maria Remarque novel All Quite on the Western Front in the Detroit Times. The book became an inspiration for Leonard, who decided he wanted to try fiction writing as well. He wrote his first play that same year, while he was in fifth grade, and would go on to write for his high school paper.
After graduating from high school in 1943 and serving three subsequent years in the U.S. Navy, Leonard returned home and enrolled at the University of Detroit. At college he pushed himself to write more, and graduated in 1950 with a degree in English and philosophy.
Still an unknown, however, Leonard didn't have the means to strike out on his own as a writer. Instead, he found work with an advertising agency, using his off time to draft stories—many of them Westerns.
His first big break as a fiction writer came in 1951, when a short story of Leonard's entitled "Trail of the Apache" was published in Argosy Magazine in December of that year. His first novel, The Bounty Hunters, which was published in 1954, drew praise from The New York Times, which labeled it a "good" first novel. Other Westerns soon followed, more than 30 in all, including two, 3:10 to Yuma and The Captives, which were turned into movies.
When the popular demand for Westerns waned in the 1960s, Leonard focused on crime novels. The stories were often set against the gritty background of his hometown of Detroit. His books, complete with rich dialogue and flawed central characters, earned the writer a group of dedicated readers. It wasn't until the 1980s, however, that Leonard truly became a star. The man whom fans complained didn't get enough publicity buzz, suddenly started appearing everywhere. In 1984 he landed on the cover of Newsweek under the label the "Dickens of Detroit."
Hollywood came calling shortly after, and many of Leonard's novels were adapted into movies, including hits like Get Shorty and Jackie Brown.
Leonard, who has five children, lives with his third wife, Christine Kent, in Oakland Country, Michigan.