Elmore Leonard, Crime Writer: By the Numbers
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Elmore Leonard, Crime Writer: By the Numbers

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Elmore Leonard, one of the most successful American crime writers of modern times who created numerous works of fiction including the 1995 genre classic Get Shorty – the book and film of the same name (starring John Travolta) made Leonard a household name – died this morning at age 87 due to stroke-related complications. 

Known for his clean, crisp prose style and his take-no-prisoners dialogue, Leonard, who turned out a book a year for 60 years, often called his hard-charging protagonists “my guys.”

“The bad guys are the fun guys,” Leonard once told The New York Times. “The only people I have trouble with are the so-called normal types. Their language isn’t very colorful and they don’t talk with any certain sound.”

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“First Detroit goes bankrupt. Now this,” wrote a loyal reader on the author’s Facebook page this morning after the news was announced by Leonard’s longtime researcher, Gregg Sutter.

Leonard was dubbed the “Dickens of Detroit” because he never left the metro area where he grew up, though the West Coast would have welcomed him with open arms years ago. He wrote his novels by longhand on unlined legal pads in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, a Motor City suburb.

“I wouldn’t move anywhere else,” he said in 2012 of the Detroit area. “I like it. Great music… lot of poverty.”

Leonard won nearly every major literary award during his career and over the years collected legions of fans who flocked to his novels and stories for their smooth depiction of gritty city life and its complex and fascinating inhabitants. To the question “How long did it take you to develop your sound [as a novelist]?” Leonard responded on his website some time ago, “Ten years. It took about ten years before my sound emerged. That’s about a million words.”

Here’s a look at some other critical Leonard data:

Number of novels written beginning in 1953

Number of novels and short stories adapted for the screen (19 as motion pictures; 7 as TV dramas)

Number of books on the New York Times bestseller print list

Box-office gross for Get Shorty’s first weekend  

U.S. box office gross for the same film

Worldwide box office gross for the same film

Total worldwide box office gross for 11 Elmore Leonard films

Amount Leonard received for his first published story in the ‘50s

The year Leonard was called “the greatest living crime writer”

Number of short stories he wrote in the ‘50s; two sold to the movies, "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Tall T"

Age he wrote his first short story

Number of rejections he received, including for film

Major literary awards won in his lifetime include: The National Book Award; The Edgar Award (Grand Master); Louisiana Writer Award; F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award; Cartier’s Diamond Dagger Award (England); the Raymond Chandler Award (Italy); the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award (in 2009)

Number of children

Number of grandchildren

Number of great-grandchildren

Sources: New York Times, HarperCollins, Detroit News, ElmoreLeonard.com