ELMORE Leonard, a former adman who became one of America’s foremost crime writers, has died aged 87.
His researcher, Gregg Sutter, said Leonard died yesterday from complications from a stroke. His more than 40 novels were populated by pathetic schemers, clever con men and casual killers. Many of the novels – notably Out of Sight, Get Shorty and Be Cool – were made into films. Critics praised his simple, direct language.
His millions of fans made all his books since Glitz (1985) best-sellers. When they flocked to watch John Travolta in the film version of Get Shorty in 1995, its author became the darling of Hollywood directors.
His novels were characterised by moral ambivalence about crime, black humour and wickedly acute depictions of human nature.
“When something sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” Leonard often said. As author Ann Arensberg put it in a New York Times book review, “I didn’t know it was possible to be as good as Elmore Leonard.”
Leonard did not have a best-seller until his 60th year, and few critics took him seriously before the 1990s.
He had some minor successes in the 1950s and 1960s in writing Western stories and novels, a couple of which were made into movies. But when interest in the Western dried up, he turned to writing scripts for educational films while venturing into crime novels.