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Crime, Cowboys And Con-Men: Author Elmore Leonard Dead At 87
August 20, 2013
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Elmore Leonard at his home in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, September 17, 2012 (Photo: AP)

American novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard, the mind behind 'Get Shorty', Quentin Tarantino's 'Jackie Brown', '3:10 To Yuma' and 'Justified', has passed away following complications from a stroke, according to a post on his official Facebook page. He was 87.

Leonard's researcher and webmaster Greg Sutter wrote this on the author's Facebook page: "The post I dreaded to write, and you dreaded to read. Elmore passed away at 7:15 this morning from complications from his stroke. He was at home surrounded by his loving family."

Leonard was born in New Orleans, but his family settled in Detroit in 1934, and the writer spent the rest of his life in Michigan.

He joined the Navy in 1943, spending three years in the South Pacific. When he returned, he enrolled at the University of Detroit, and started to seriously pursue a writing career.

His first short story, 'Trail of the Apaches', was published in 1951. He wrote more than 30 short tales, most of them Westerns, in the '50s and early '60s. Two of those stories were turned into films - '3:10 To Yuma' and 'The Tall T' - kicking off Leonard's lifelong connection with Hollywood.

His first novel, 'The Bounty Hunters', came out in 1953, and he wrote a series of pulp Westerns after that, eventually moving into other genres - notably crime and mystery - and writing screenplays.

A lot of Leonard's books have been adapted into movies, including 1998's 'Out of Sight', 'Get Shorty' in 1995, and 'Rum Punch' (which Quentin Tarantino filmed as 'Jackie Brown') in 1997.

The film 'Life of Crime', based on Leonard's novel 'The Switch', is scheduled to screen at this year's Toronto International Film Festival in September.

His work has also inspired television shows. The FX TV series 'Justified' is based on U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a character who appeared in Leonard's novels 'Pronto' and 'Riding the Gap' and the short story 'Fire in the Hole'.

In 2001, he published his 10 Rules of Writing in an article for the New York Times (the rules were also published as a book in 2007).

They offer a pretty great summary of Leonard's no-nonsense approach to writing prose. Here they are (and the extra rule that he says joins the rest together):

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"...he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
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.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.


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