Without question, one of the 20th century's premier writers of crime fiction, Elmore Leonard's fascinatingly seedy characters and penchant for snappy, natural dialogue has found the longtime writer climbing from pulp Western author to one of the most sought after scribes of the Hollywood scene. Though it would take nearly two decades for filmmakers to accurately capture the gritty, but humorous, tone that he had mastered through his many years putting pen to paper, the runaway success of director Barry Sonnenfeld's spot-on adaptation of Leonard's novel Get Shorty in 1995 prompted a slew of films in which the author's unique tone was accurately translated to celluloid.
Born the son of a General Motors location scout in New Orleans in 1925, his family moved frequently during Elmore's early years. His imagination fueled by newspaper headlines detailing the exploits of such desperadoes as Bonnie and Clyde, a permanent move to Detroit during the 1934 World Series also spurred an interest in sports that would find young Leonard (nicknamed "Dutch" by his friends) running the gridiron at the University of Detroit High School after receiving his primary education at Catholic school. Leonard often credited his early, Jesuit education as a prime factor in his learning how to "think," and following his high school graduation in 1944, he joined the Seabees and shipped out for the Admiralty Islands. Returning from the South Seas to major in English at the University of Detroit, Leonard became enamored with the writings of Ernest Hemingway and Richard Bissell. The seed had been planted. After graduating from college, Leonard married and landed a job as a copy boy at the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency, and though he would soon be penning ads for Chevrolet, the prospect of writing commercial fiction proved too tempting to resist. Initially penning Westerns due to market demand, Leonard's story Trail of the Apache was published in Argosy Magazine in December 1951 -- marking the author's first published work.