Elmore Leonard photo courtesy of Uneek Doll Designs

Elmore Leonard, a Home for His Work in South Carolina

Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1925, and moved to Detroit, Michigan, with his family when he was nine years old. After high school, he joined the Navy and then returned to Detroit for college.

After college, he worked in advertising and did writing on the side.  Eventually he was able to quit his job and write for a living. He wrote novels and short stories. His early works were mostly Westerns. Later on, he wrote a lot of crime fiction. He also wrote screenplays. Many of his novels and short stories were turned into movies .

Sometimes people criticized him for the way he wrote. They wanted him to add more words and make his stories less choppy. That is exactly what Elmore Leonard did not want to do. In fact, he said that his most important writing rule was, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” He wanted to write stories which reflected the way people spoke in everyday life.

Rebecca Beech

Administrator Note:

After the above portion was posted, the news broke that the enormous Elmore Leonard archives was bestowed upon the University of South Carolina Thomas Cooper Library (1322 Greene St, Columbia). This was Leonard’s decision following a visit there near the end of his life (he passed away in 2013). Read  https://www.sc.edu/uofsc/newsreleases/2014/10_elmore_leonard_collection.php#.VE1c6fldV8F and contact the Thomas Cooper Library in advance with any questions about access or future exhibits.

According to sc.edu: “The complete Elmore Leonard archive includes more than 450 drafts of manuscripts, short stories and screenplays, typed on his signature yellow paper. It features all of his 45 novels, magazine pieces, appointment books, extensive research files, letters, photographs, director’s chairs from movie sets, his National Book Foundation award for distinguished contribution to American letters, his desk and typewriters. There are even a few of his Hawaiian shirts and a pair of sneakers. In all, the collection includes 150 boxes holding 2,400 linear feet of documents.”

The University of South Carolina is the second stop on our South Carolina Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart