Elmore Leonard, the beloved crime novelist whose acclaimed bestsellers and the movies made from them chronicled the violent deaths of many a thug and con man, has died. He was 87.
Leonard, winner of an honorary National Book Award in 2012, died Tuesday morning at his home in Bloomfield Township, a suburb of Detroit, from complications of a stroke, according to his researcher, Gregg Sutter. He was surrounded by family when he died, Sutter said.
His millions of fans, from bellhops to Saul Bellow, made all his books since Glitz (1985) bestsellers. When they flocked to watch John Travolta in the movie version of Get Shorty in 1995, its author became the darling of Hollywood’s hippest directors. And book critics and literary lions, prone to dismiss crime novels as mere entertainments, competed for adjectives to praise him.
His more than 40 novels were populated by pathetic schemers, clever con men and casual killers. Each was characterized by moral ambivalence about crime, black humour and wickedly acute depictions of human nature: the greedy dreams of Armand Degas in Killshot, the wisecracking cool of Chili Palmer in Get Shorty, Jack Belmont’s lust for notoriety in The Hot Kid.
“When something sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” Leonard often said; and critics adored the flawlessly unadorned, colloquial style. As author Ann Arensberg put it in a New York Times book review, “I didn’t know it was possible to be as good as Elmore Leonard.”
The story is of course all over the media, but I recommend checking with his official website, which already has the news of the death.
As I said in my 2008 appreciation of him, we will not see his like again.