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Elmore Leonard

Legendary Author

We want to thank Elmore Leonard, one of America’s most prolific and well known writers, for coming on to talk with Jen Richer about the creative process and commercializing his written works.

Mr. Leonard has a library of books, screenplays, television shows, and films to his credit. Born in New Orleans in 1925, Leonard was drawn to the westerns early in life. In the pre-interview discussion with Eric Yeager, Leonard said that he fell in love with westerns because they were easy stories to tell: a good guy sets out to battle bad guys. For Leonard, that formula was simple, and he learned how to perfect it in his spare time while at a job writing advertising copy.

Leonard in the 1950s catapulted into television and films with many works that were westerns—The Captives, which became the 1957 film The Tall T (starring Randolph Scott and Richard Boone); Hombre, which became the 1967 film of the same name starring Paul Newman and Richard Boone; Joe Kidd, which became the 1972 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood, and 3:10 to Yuma, which became the 1957 and 2007 films of the same name.

Sensing that the western format had all but dried up, Leonard forged ahead with crime dramas like Mr. Majestyk, which was developed into the 1974 film starring Charles Bronson. The Moonshine War was made into a film starring Richard Widmark; 52 Pickup was the basis of the film starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret; Rum Punch was the source of Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown featuring Pam Grier and Samuel Jackson; and his book Out of Sight is the basis of the film starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.

Mr. Leonard’s skill as a writer is known around the world, and he has received numerous awards, including the 1999 Edgar Allan Poe Award, the 2008 Scott Fitzgerald Award, and 2009 PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award.

We appreciate Mr. Leonard’s candor in discussing some of the challenges involved with having his books being adapted into films, and some of the disappointing results. But, as noted in the interview, Elmore Leonard refuses to fret or wring his hands over what a director might do in making a film based on his book. At 85, he moves on to the next project. Right now, Mr. Leonard’s next project is a television hit called “Justified” on the FX Network. We were delighted to have him share some of the writings on his U.S. marshal character Raylan Givens, and we are hopeful that he gets to do another western with Clint Eastwood. What could be better than teaming America’s greatest living western writer with America’s greatest living western hero?

We sincerely thank Mr. Leonard for giving us the time to chat on the phone about movies, books, and Hollywood, and we look forward to talking with him again. But we give all the credit here to Gregg Sutter for making this all happen. Thanks again, Gregg.

To learn more about the life and works of Elmore Leonard, please go to his site at


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