Elmore Leonard, American Crime Novelist, Dead at 87


Share this Post

Sad news this morning out of Detroit: one of America's greatest crime novelists and the executive producer for the Eastern Kentucky crime drama Justified on FX has died at 87.

Leonard passed on at 7:15 in the morning today at his home in Bloomfield Village due to complications of a stroke. The announcement was made via his Facebook page, accompanied by the main image, and read: "The post I dreaded to write, and you dreaded to read. Elmore passed away at 7:15 this morning from complications from his stroke. He was at home surrounded by his loving family. More to follow."

Few writers who get their break have the clever tongue for writing both the police and the crooks with equal measure given to both sides of the law, but Leonard was also famous for his dry wit, noir, and westerns like 3:10 to Yuma. The crew of Justified wore bracelets bearing the letters WWED, meaning "What would Elmore do?"

A boy from the bayou, Leonard was born in New Orleans but his family moved around a lot and he ended up in Detroit in 1934 when he was just 9 years old. He went to the Blessed Sacrement School on Belmont, where was teased about his southern accent. He graduated from the University of Detroit in 1950 with a major in English and he dove headfirst into the Detroit advertising industry.

In an office that his son describes as "looking like a prison cell," Leonard would often write western novels between 5 and 7 in the morning, and after he quit advertising, he would write from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. with no lunch break. While Leonard could have capitalized on himself and moved to Hollywood, he preferred his quieter life in Bloomfield Village.

The novelist's character of Marshal Raylan Givens is not a new one, and the recent success of the crime show based on the novella "Fire in the Hole" tickled Leonard. He recently wrote a novel about Givens under the title Raylan.

Other famous examples of Leonard's work that have been adapted to the screen include Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Jackie Brown.