Biography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430

Stephen Howell Greenleaf was born on July 17, 1942, in Washington, D.C., the son of Robert Wendell, a lawyer and business executive, and Patricia Howell Greenleaf. Shortly thereafter the family relocated to Centerville, Iowa. Greenleaf first became interested in detective novels in the fifth grade when he was sent home from school for sneaking a Perry Mason story into class. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Carleton College in Minnesota in 1964 and his law degree from Boalt Hall of the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. In 1967-1969 Greenleaf served in the United States Army, including a year in Vietnam. He was married to Ann Garrison, an author of children’s books, on July 20, 1968. The couple has a son, Aaron Howell.

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Greenleaf was admitted to the bar of California in 1968 and served as a legal aid for Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon, in 1969-1970. The following year, he was an associate attorney at Thompson & Hubbard in Monterey, California. From 1972 to 1976 he was associate attorney at Sullivan, Jones & Archer in San Francisco, specializing in securities fraud, antitrust, and business litigation. He became dissatisfied with his career in law and cast about for a new challenge, deciding eventually, at the age of thirty-four, on writing. His years as a lawyer on the West Coast gave him a feel for the setting he would use as home base in the Tanner series.

Greenleaf moved back to Iowa toward the end of the decade and served as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy at the University of Iowa. He wrote his first Tanner novel, Grave Error (1979), while waiting to take the Iowa bar exam and was also a participant in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Lacking the benefit of an agent or any contact in publishing, Greenleaf saw his manuscript rejected by seven publishing houses before he managed to get the novel accepted by Dial Press. Over the next two decades, thirteen more novels in the Tanner series would appear, with middling sales despite mostly good reviews. Three of the final four volumes were nominated for major awards in the mystery field. The series concluded with Ellipsis (2000), by the end of which Tanner appears about to retire from his career as detective and to begin a new life with his wife-to-be, Assistant District Attorney Jill Coppelia.

Hoping to attract a larger readership, Greenleaf moved outside the mystery genre by writing two nonseries novels: The Ditto List and Impact, both of which involve courtroom dramas and were sold to Hollywood. After many years in Washington and Oregon, the Greenleafs settled in Northern California.

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