Elmore John Leonard, Jr. –- the American novelist and screenwriter -- died on Tuesday morning at 7:15, from complications of a stroke he suffered on July 29. He had been working on his 46th novel at the time, and a film adaptation of Leonard’s "The Switch," entitled “Life of Crime,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins, and written and directed by Dan Schecter, is scheduled for a World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2013.
In an interview with the Associated Press in 2002, Leonard explained that since his High School days as a quarterback, his nickname was “Dutch,” in honor of a well-known knuckleball pitcher, Emil “Dutch” Leonard, of the Washington Senators.
Something else Leonard was known for -– “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing” -- appeared in a New York Times article entitled, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle;” and these rules are readily available through an online search.
Writing yesterday in Slate, in an updated piece entitled: “Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writing Are Full of Exceptions,” David Haglund points out that Leonard opens up the piece with a caveat:
“If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules.”
His first rule for writing dialogue is, however, " If it sounds written, it's wrong."
Leonard is best known above all for his novels and film adaptations, including “Get Shorty;” “Out of Sight;” and the more recent FX series “Justified,” which was based on his novella “Fire in the Hole.”
In his Forward to Walter Mirisch’s “I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History,” Elmore Leonard wrote:
“I dedicated my Hollywood novel “Get Shorty,” to Walter, with the inscription, ‘To Walter Mirisch, one of the good guys.’
To me the bad guys in the movies were the ones who optioned my books, had the stories rewritten, and allowed the actors to roam through the plot making up their own lines. Finally, when I was given the chance to write a script, a studio exec said to me, “All you’ve done is adapt your book scene for scene.” I said, “Yes?” He said, “You don’t have to be a screenwriter to do that.” Well, Walter believed I could write movies.”
An Academy Award winner for Best Picture, for “In the Heat of the Night;” West Side Story;” and “The Apartment”), Walter Mirisch -- with his brothers Marvin and Harold -- comprised one of the most successful production teams in Hollywood (for “The Great Escape;” “Some Like It Hot;” “The Magnificent Seven;” “The Pink Panther,” and many others).
Walter and Dutch were longtime friends, and Mirisch commissioned him to write an original screenplay, which he agreed to, which was later ‘novelized’ and made available in print.
“Mr. Majestyk,” was actually based on one of the characters in Leonard’s novel, “The Big Bounce.” It’s a story about Vince Majestyk (played by Charles Bronson), a Vietnam Veteran who owns a melon farm in rural Colorado, where an organized crime racket threatens his workers. Vince stands his ground, and hires skilled Mexican crop pickers, including the Union leader Nancy Chavez, and the odds, more or less get evened.
Leonard notes in the Forward, also:
The only change in the script has Charles Bronson bringing in a crop of watermelons instead of cantaloupe -- because cantaloupe was out of season by the time they started shooting in Colorado.
Mr. Leonard’s son, Peter Leonard’s fourth book, “Back from the Dead” was released in earlier this year. Both father and son started their careers in advertising. Peter’s first novel, “Trust Me,” came out in 2009; acknowledging at the time -– in a father and son event at Borders Bookstore in Birmingham, Alabama, which was documented by Marny Rich Keenan in the Detroit Free Press -– that the career change for Peter came as he was visiting one day with his Dad, who lived very close by in Birmingham:
"I mean, writing looked like a good life. You looked like you were having fun."
"I was. It's true. Writing a book is not work for me. At least, I don't think of it as being work. It's not easy, of course, but it's not work. Of course, I did have to learn how to write funny. Now, that's not so easy.”
“"But, now you've done it."
"Well, we'll see.
You gotta keep going. …"
The National Book Foundation honored Leonard with a Lifetime Achievement Award in November of 2012.