Elmore John Leonard Jr. (born October 11, 1925, in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a popular American novelist and screenwriter.
His father worked for General Motors (GM), as a site locator for GM facilities, which caused the family to move frequently. Although Leonard was born in New Orleans, he did not live there for long. The family moved often until he was nine, in 1934, when they settled in Detroit, Michigan.
About this time, two major influences occurred that would show up in many of his works. Gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde were making national headlines, as were the Detroit Tigers baseball team. In the early 1930s, Bonnie and Clyde were on their rampage, and were killed in May, 1934. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 1934. Leonard turned these events into lifelong fascinations with both sports and guns.
Leonard graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943.
Leonard, or "Dutch" as he is sometimes called, got his first break in the fiction market during the 1950s, regularly publishing pulp western novels. He has since forayed into mystery, crime, and more topical genres, as well as screenwriting. He has been commended by critics for his gritty realism and strong dialogue. His writing style sometimes takes liberties with grammar in the interest of speeding along the story. In his essay "Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing", Leonard wrote, "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." Also on the subject of what makes his books so readable he has said that he leaves out the parts that readers skip.
Leonard has been called "the Dickens of Detroit" because of his intimate portraits of people from that city. Leonard's ear for dialogue and ability to render dialogue on the printed page are uncanny and have been praised by writers as diverse as Saul Bellow and Martin Amis. "Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy", Amis told Leonard at a Writers Guild Theatre event in Beverly Hills in 1998.
A number of Leonard's novels have been adapted as films, perhaps most notably Out of Sight, Get Shorty in 1995, and Rum Punch as the 1997 film Jackie Brown. The film Bandits was originally meant to be an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Bandits", to which Bruce Willis owns the film rights, but the producers felt it was too weak and brought in writer Harley Peyton to write a new script from scratch.
Leonard now lives in Oakland County, Michigan, with his family.