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The late lamented Elmore Leonard

26 August 2013

Elmore Leonard, who died this week at the age of 87, was for most of his writing life ignored by the critics. Starting as a writer of westerns, even then belittled by the literary establishment and now little published, he graduated to the tough crime novels which made his name.

When Leonard's Stick was published in Britain in 1984, one newspaper called it "a fine first novel". The author was almost 60 and it was, in fact, his 21st novel - in all he published 45 novels. From 1950 to 1967, when he turned to full-time writing, he was a copywriter in advertising and this led to his famously economic style of writing.

Leonard was widely admired by fellow crime writers and was regarded as the master of a certain kind of crime novel.

Malcolm Edwards, Orion publisher and Deputy CEO said: "[Leonard] was a great writer and a great figure. He had a very long, productive career, and he was still writing his best up till the end. He was a consummate professional. We began publishing him in 2005, and we all loved being his publisher. He wrote roughly a book a year since then, and he had a great late success following the TV programme 'Justified', adapted from his work."

Leonard had definite views about writing. He said: "I don't want you to be aware of me in my books. I'm not ever telling the story. When you're reading a novel, you don't want people telling you things, you want to see it, to hear it." His own 10 rules for writing, published in the New York Times, are all about leaving things out rather than putting things in, and should probably be read by everyone who wants to be a popular writer. He said: "My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Elmore Leonard Official site
Guardian obituary