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Best-selling author Elmore Leonard dies at 87


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One story, "3:10 to Yuma," became a noted 1956 movie starring Glenn Ford, and "The Captives" was made into a film the same year called "The Tall T." But the small windfall wasn’t enough for Leonard to quit his day job. ("3:10 to Yuma" was remade in 2007, starring Russell Crowe.)

His first novel, "The Bounty Hunters," was published in 1953, and he wrote four more in the next eight years. One of them, "Hombre," about a white man raised by Apaches, was a breakthrough for the struggling young writer. When 20th Century Fox bought the rights for $10,000 in 1967, he quit the ad business to write full time.

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"Hombre" became a pretty good movie starring Paul Newman, and the book was named one of the greatest Westerns of all time by the Western Writers of America.

Soon, another Leonard Western, "Valdez Is Coming," became a star vehicle for Burt Lancaster. But as the 1960s ended, the market for Westerns fizzled. Leonard wrote five more, but they sold poorly, and Hollywood lost interest.

Leonard was born in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 1925, the son of General Motors executive Elmore John Leonard and his wife, Flora.

The family settled near Detroit when young Elmore was 10. The tough, undersized young man played quarterback in high school and earned the nickname "Dutch," after Emil "Dutch" Leonard, a knuckleball pitcher of the day. The ballplayer’s card sat for years in the writer’s study on one of the shelves lined with copies of his books.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he majored in English at the University of Detroit. He started writing copy for an advertising agency before his graduation in 1950.

He married three times: to the late Beverly Cline in 1949, the late Joan Shepard in 1979, and at the age of 68, to Christine Kent in 1993. He had five children, all from his first marriage.

His son, Peter, followed in his father’s path, going into advertising for years before achieving his own success as a novelist with his 2008 debut, "Quiver."

In 2012, after learning he was to become a National Book Award lifetime achievement recipient, Leonard said he had no intention of ending his life’s work.


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"I probably won’t quit until I just quit everything — quit my life — because it’s all I know how to do," he told the AP at the time. "And it’s fun. I do have fun writing, and a long time ago, I told myself, ‘You got to have fun at this, or it’ll drive you nuts.’"

Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.



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