R.I.P. Elmore Leonard

Witty and prolific crime novelist Elmore Leonard passed away on Tuesday at the age of 87. Over the course of his long career, a couple dozen of the author’s stories were adapted to film (some of them more than once) by several big-name directors including Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh. Some of the movies were better than others. A handful of the good ones are available on Blu-ray waiting to be rewatched now.

Leonard started his career writing Westerns. His novel ‘Hombre’ was adapted into a 1967 movie starring Paul Newman, and his short story ‘Three-Ten to Yuma’ begat two separate adaptations, one in 1957 with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin and another in 2007 with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, both called ‘3:10 to Yuma’.

Of course, the author is most famous for his dozens of crime novels, written in very sparse, stripped-down language without much frilly ostentation, featuring no-nonsense heroes facing off against dim-bulb criminals. His books were so popular that Hollywood came calling many times, both to mine his works for source material and to employ Leonard himself as a screenwriter. Movies based on his writing attracted big stars like Clint Eastwood (1972’s ‘Joe Kidd’), Charles Bronson (‘Mr. Majestyk’, 1974), Burt Reynolds (‘Stick’, 1985) and John Travolta (‘Get Shorty’, 1995). Unfortunately, the quality of these films was mixed at best, and no one was more critical of them than Leonard.

Eventually, with Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ (based on ‘Rum Punch’) in 1997 and Soderbergh’s ‘Out of Sight’ in 1998, it seemed that directors were finally starting to “get” Elmore Leonard. Unfortunately, neither movie was a big box office winner, and later adaptations of ‘Be Cool’ (the sequel to ‘Get Shorty’) and ‘Killshot’ were duds.

On television, Barry Sonnenfeld (director of ‘Get Shorty’) produced a 1998 series based on Leonard’s ‘Maximum Bob’. Later, Carla Gugino starred in ‘Karen Sisco’, which spun off a character from ‘Out of Sight’. Both shows were quite promising, but neither lasted very long. Much more successful has been the FX network’s ‘Justified’, based on the short story ‘Fire in the Hole’. The popular cable drama starring Timothy Olyphant will begin its fifth season next year. Reportedly, it’s one of the few adaptations of his work that Leonard was genuinely pleased with. His final novel, called ‘Raylan’, centers around the same character.

The following Elmore Leonard adaptations are available on Blu-ray now:

The author suffered a stroke at the end of last month, and died from complications on Tuesday.

[Source: The New York Times]


  1. This sucks, he created some really cool and smart protagonists. Justified is my favorite Show on TV right now.

    I have only not seen Killshot on that list so i guess i will have to watch it.

  2. Timcharger

    This has become a new credential for you Josh, an obituary writer. Lately, R.I.P.s seem to be a weekly/bi-weekly column.

    And it sucks. Not your writing. Death is such a downer.

    Hey Elmore, cheers. This beer’s on me. Salud.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *