In 1953 Elmore Leonard began producing Western, then detective and mystery fiction, creating more than forty books. Leonard earned a significant but limited reputation as a writer of Western stories, novels, and screenplays, but his enduring contribution will be his witty, unorthodox crime thrillers that reveal the particulars of the made-men and wise guys of Detroit, Atlantic City, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and wherever human motivation and endeavor might be on display. Leonard has also written extensively for television and film. In a review of Leonard’s Bandits (1987), noted author Walker Percy said, “He is as good as the blurbs say: ’The greatest crime writer of our time, or perhaps ever.’” He shares with musician Bruce Springsteen (who achieved the feat in 1978) the distinction of being the only nonpresident to be on the covers of both Newsweek and Time magazines (in 1988) in the same calendar year; Time magazine characterized Leonard as “the [Charles] Dickens from Detroit.” Leonard continues to be a phenomenally successful popular writer who continues to merit scholarly attention for his literary corpus.
Leonard developed a cult following of crime novel readers in the 1970’s and 1980’s with such notable works as Fifty-two Pickup (1974) and City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit (1980). However, he did not have a best-selling novel until Glitz (1985), which, combined with the television movie that was made from this book in 1988, made his name a household word. In 1986, City Primeval won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. For the past two decades, Leonard’s novels and the television movies and feature films made from them have enjoyed immediate and considerable audiences; he has transcended the world of crime fiction and made significant contributions as a screenwriter and in his interactions with such figures as director Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown, 1997; made from Leonard’s 1992 novel, Rum Punch) and actor John Travolta (Get Shorty, 1995; Be Cool, 2005). Leonard received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1992 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award from the Crime Writers’ Association in 2006. A devoted grandfather who has written the children’s book A Coyote’s in the House (2004), he continued to be productive beyond his eightieth birthday, with the publication of his forty-first novel, Up in Honey’s Room (2007).