Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elmore Leonard!

Leonard was born in New Orleans, but because his father worked as a site locator for General Motors, the family moved frequently for several years. In 1934, the family finally settled in Detroit. Leonard has made the Detroit area his home ever since.

In the 1930s, two major events occurred that would influence many of his works. Gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde were making national headlines, as were the Detroit Tigers baseball team. From about 1931 until they were killed in May, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were on a rampage. The Tigers made it to the World Series in 1934 while winning it in 1935. Leonard developed lifelong fascinations with both sports and guns.

He graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943, and immediately joined the Navy, where he served with the Seabees for three years in the south Pacific (gaining the nickname 'Dutch', after pitcher Dutch Leonard [3]). Enrolling at the University of Detroit in 1946, he pursued writing more seriously, entering his work in short story contests and sending it off to magazines. A year before he graduated, he got a job as a copy writer with Campbell-Ewald Advertising agency, a position he kept for several years and wrote on the side.

Elmore Leonard's fast-moving crime writing houses a colorful array of sleazy characters spouting inspired, street-smart dialogue in vividly described locales such as Detroit, Miami and Hollywood. Elmore brings his lean, direct narrative voice to his Western novels as well. His often wry tone suits both genres equally. Sudden eruptions of fierce violence keep readers on edge and off-balance. His fast-paced writing focuses on lifelike, idiosyncratic characters -- in pursuit of a big score, or of each other -- heading toward a final collision that not all will walk away from.

"The next best thing to reading Elmore Leonard is re-reading him." -- Mike Lupica,
New York Daily News

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