RIP Elmore Leonard: 10 Great Quotes From the Master of Crime

Elmore LeonardElmore Leonard, the amazing crime novelist who wrote Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and the short story 3:10 to Yuma, passed away on Tuesday from complications from a stroke. Leonard, known to his friends as Dutch, died at his home in Bloomfield Village, Michigan. He was 87 years old.

If you're not familiar with Leonard's books, you probably know his film and television adaptations. Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film Jackie Brown was based on Leonard's book Rum Punch, and the FX series Justified is based on his short story Fire in the Hole.

Across his more than 40 novels, Leonard's writing features sparse, crackling dialogue, and a bevy of gritty antiheroes and whip-smart double-crosses. He was once described as "incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence," and I couldn't agree more. His characters are laser-cut, blackly humorous, and above all: cool.  

In honor of Mr. Leonard's work over the years, here are 10 quotes from his books to give you an idea of his style:


I always felt, you don’t have a good time doin crime, you may as well find a job. -- Raylan

He saw Harvey and Edgar catch each other's eye as he looked off toward the strains of "Alley Cat," Jesus, hoping they'd rush it faster than the others or he'd have to get out of here. It was the only song he knew that made him want to break something. -- Stick

When you're really cute that's all you have to be, you make a career out of it. Someone asks you what you do, you say, 'Nothing. I'm cute.' -- Killshot

He had on one of those business cowboy hats, but broken in; it looked good on him, the way he wore it cocked low on his eyes. -- Riding the Rap

Man like him don't go to the toilet he don't have a piece on him. -- Be Cool

I spent most of my dough on booze, broads, and boats, and the rest I wasted. -- La Brava

"Walk up to the guy," Terry said, "and hit him in the mouth as hard as you can, with a rock. You'll feel better. Now make a good Act of Contrition for anything you might've done and forgot about." Terry could offer temporary relief but nothing that would change their lives. -- Pagan Babies

There were a lot of terms you had to learn, as opposed to the shylock business where all you had to know how to say was 'Give me the fuckin money.' -- Get Shorty

And she thought if you don't have the desire to fight or wait for something there's no reason for being on earth. -- Last Stand at Saber River

It's like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there's this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person's gone, and it's too late to do anything about it. -- Out of Sight

Lastly, Elmore Leonard's pitch-perfect, much-admired "10 Rules for Good Writing":

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said” ... he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10," he wrote. "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Elmore Leonard was an absolute master at what he did, and I will greatly miss looking forward to new stories from him. Rest in peace, sir.

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