Crime Novelist Elmore Leonard Dies

Aug 20, 2013
Originally published on August 21, 2013 12:03 pm

Elmore Leonard, the crime novelist whose best-sellers included Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky and Maximum Bob, died Tuesday morning at his Detroit-area home, according to statements from his longtime researcher Gregg Sutter on Twitter and to The Detroit News.

He was 87 and was recently hospitalized after a stroke.

In March 2010, NPR's Noah Adams visited Leonard at his home. As Noah wrote then, "Leonard has written 43 books, almost all of which have been optioned for films. His fans — there are many — say he's the best crime writer ever, and they can recognize any page based on the sound."

Leonard explained that sound this way:

"Well, when people ask me about my dialogue, I say 'Well, don't you hear people talking?' That's all I do. I hear a certain type of individual. I decide this is what he should be, whatever it is, and then I hear him. Well, I don't hear anybody that I can't make talk."

Leonard will also be well-remembered for his 10 Rules of Writing. USA Today listed them in 2007:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

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And another loss yesterday: Elmore Leonard, the creator of some of the most memorable characters in modern crime fiction, has died. Until he suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, the 87-year-old never stopped writing.


Elmore Leonard lived in or near Detroit for most of his life. He wrote about his hometown, but his characters could also be found across the country, from Atlantic City to L.A., coming at readers in a rush of dialogue both funny and crass, and stumbling upon trouble wherever they went.

GREENE: In an interview with NPR, Leonard said he auditioned his characters in the first 100 pages of his books to figure out who would live and who would die.


MONTAGNE: And Leonard's characters were great talkers. He wrote more than 40 novels: "The Big Bounce," "Get Shorty," "Rum Punch," "Glitz."

GREENE: Many of them were made into movies. Elmore Leonard was also known for his 10 rules of writing, among them: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. He was writing to the end, hard at work on yet another novel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.