Elmore Leonard, Writer of ‘Justified,’ ‘Jackie Brown,’ ‘Get Shorty,’ Dead at 87

Elmore Leonard, Writer of 'Justified,' 'Jackie Brown,' 'Get Shorty,' Dead at 87

Leonard's work inspired decades of Hollywood's television and movie hits

Elmore Leonard, whose gritty fiction provided the basis of films including "Jackie Brown," and "Get Shorty," and the FX television show "Justified," has died at 87, his agent told TheWrap.

The confirmation came after a post on Leonard's Facebook page from Gregg Sutter, Leonard's researcher and webmaster. Leonard died in Detroit, where he spent most of his life.

Also read: Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

"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," Sutter wrote.

Leonard spanned genres from mystery to pulpy crime to Westerns, but what remained consistent was his ability to make pages turn. He explained his approach in a New York Times essay about his 10 rules of good writing:

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." 

See photos: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2013

He won a slew of awards, including, in 2009, PEN USA's lifetime achievement award, and kept working almost up until the end. While his fiction remained timely as ever, but his technique was old-fashioned.

"I still write everything in longhand first, on these special yellow pads that I have made up," he told TheWrap in 2010. "I always used them when I started out, working at an ad agency, doing Chevy ads, and I still like to work that way. Then I type it all out, but I never use a computer."

He also had a knack for inspiring adaptations: His books and short stories inspired a half century of big and small screen adaptations, including two different versions of "3:10 to Yuma," five decades apart. Others included "Hombre," "Out of Sight" and "Rum Punch," which became "Jackie Brown."

The 1997 film is the only Quentin Tarantino film based on someone else's original story, a sign of how much Leonard's work was revered in Hollywood.

Leonard told TheWrap that as his career went on, the payment for his work improved.

"When I wrote '3:10 to Yuma,' I sold the original story for $90, and then got $4,000 for the movie rights," he said.

Leonard was born October 11, 1925 in New Orleans, but his family soon moved to Detroit. Leonard found work there as an advertising man, but wrote fiction on the side. That soon led to one of Hollywood's richest writing careers, but Leonard stayed put in Metro Detroit's Bloomfield Hills.

He said in 2012 that the city had always inspired him.

“I like it,” he told the Detroit News. “Great music … lot of poverty. I wouldn’t move anywhere else. Now, it’s too late. I'd never be able to drive in San Francisco or Los Angeles.”

  • chasko

    we have lost one of the best. so sorry.

    • Jesse Long

      I agree, chasko, however, I was not a fan of “Get Shorty,” but “Rum Punch/Jackie Brown,” “Hombre,” and “3:10 to Yuma” are certifiable classics of both literature AND film.