Elmore Leonard biography, plus links to book reviews and book excerpts from books by Elmore Leonard.

Author Biography  |  Books by this Author  |  Readalikes

Elmore Leonard
Photo by Linda Solomon

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard Biography

Elmore Leonard became interested in writing in 1935, after reading a serialization of All Quiet on the Western Front in the Detroit Times. Touched by the story, he wrote a play based on the novel for his fifth-grade classroom, using the desks as "No-Man's-Land." In high school he wrote a story or two for the school paper but spent most of his time reading. After graduating in 1943 Leonard joined the navy and served with a Seabee unit in the South Pacific. He left the service in 1946 and enrolled at the University of Detroit. At the university he began writing again, entering short story contests and placing third in one of them. He graduated in 1950 with a major in English and philosophy.

In 1949, while still in college, Leonard joined the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency. He also began writing in earnest during this period. He had his first success in 1951 when Argosy magazine published his short story "Trail of the Apache." Other stories—all westerns—followed in such publications as Zane Grey Western and The Saturday Evening Post. In 1953 Leonard published his first novel, The Bounty Hunters, followed by four more over the next eight years. Between 1951 and 1961 he published 30 short stories, five novels, and made two sales to the movies. When his novel Hombre was chosen as one of the best westerns of all time by the Western Writers of America in 1961, Leonard finally felt confident enough to quit the advertising agency and devote all of his time to writing.


As the market for westerns began to dry up, however, Leonard found himself writing educational films for Encyclopaedia Britannica, industrial films for corporations and advertising and sales material. He switched from westerns to crime with the publication of The Big Bounce. During the 1970s and 1980s he developed a devoted following with his novels Fifty-two Pickup, City Primeval, Stick and LaBrava. When Glitz was published in 1985, it became Leonard's "breakout" bestseller; he began to receive long-overdue attention, including a Newsweek cover story. Each of his novels since then—Bandits, Touch, Freaky Deaky, Killshot, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, Rum Punch, Pronto, Riding the Rap, Out of Sight and Cuba Libre —has been a national bestseller as well as a critical success.

Three of Leonard's books have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America: The Switch, nominated for Best Original Paperback Novel of 1978; Split Images, for Best Novel of 1981; and LaBrava, which won for Best Novel in 1983. Maximum Bob was also awarded the first annual International Association of Crime Writers' North American Hammett Prize in 1991. In 1992 the Mystery Writers gave Leonard the Grand Master Award, which "is presented only to individuals who, by a lifetime of achievement, have proved themselves preeminent in the craft of the mystery and dedicated to the advancement of the genre."

Success has followed Leonard to Hollywood as well. Released in October 1995, "Get Shorty," starred John Travolta and was an immediate critical and commercial success; the same is true of "Out of Sight," which starred George Clooney and was released in June 1998. Award-winning director Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction") directed "Jackie Brown," a film based on Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, in December 1997. Tarantino also plans to bring three more Leonard novels to the silver screen: Bandits, Freaky Deaky and Killshot. Leonard's 34th novel, Cuba Libre, is a story of high adventure, history, romance and nefarious undertakings in Cuba. The film rights to the novel, which was released in February 1998, were bought by Joel and Ethan Coen of "Fargo" fame. "Maximum Bob" was an ABC-TV miniseries starring Beau Bridges.

In September 1998, Dell published The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories and also issued a trade paperback trilogy of Elmore Leonard’s Western Roundups (#1, #2, #3), one each month, from October through December 1998. Delacorte Press will publish Be Cool, the follow-up to Get Shorty, in February 1999.

A full-length biography, Elmore Leonard, by David Geherin, was published by Continuum as part of their Literature and Life series. Leonard was also the subject of an hour-long documentary produced in 1991 by the BBC, entitled "Elmore Leonard's Criminal Record"; the documentary has aired in the United States on The Learning Channel.

Elmore Leonard died on August 20 2013; he is survived by five children and nine grandchildren.

Link to Elmore's website

This biography was last updated on 08/20/2013.

A note about the biographies
We try to keep BookBrowse's biographies both up to date and accurate. However, with over 2500 lives to keep track of it's inevitable that some won't be as current or as complete as we would like. So, please help us - if the information about a particular author is out of date, inaccurate or simply very short, and you know of a more complete source, please let us know. Authors and those connected with authors: If you wish to make changes to your bio, please send your complete biography as you would like it displayed so that we can replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Elmore Leonard at BookBrowse

Recommended in Detail at BookBrowse

The Hot Kid
The Hot Kid

by Elmore Leonard

With tommy guns, hot cars, speakeasies, cops and robbers, and a former lawman who believes in vigilante justice, all played out against the flapper period of gun molls and Prohibition, The Hot Kid is Elmore Leonard - a true master -at his best.
Read More

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Elmore Leonard but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Christopher Buckley

    Christopher Buckley

    Christopher Buckley was born in New York City in 1952 and graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1976. He shipped out in the Merchant Marine and at age 24 became managing editor of Esquire magazine. At age 29, he became ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Pagan Babies

    Try:
    Boomsday
    by Christopher Buckley

  • James Lee Burke

    James Lee Burke

    James Lee Burke was born in Houston, Texas, in 1936 and grew up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. He attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute and later received a B. A. Degree in English and an M. A. from the University ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Hot Kid

    Try:
    Jolie Blon's Bounce
    by James Lee Burke

We recommend 10 similar authors

View all 10 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  129Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.