Word has come through over the past couple of days that Elmore Leonard, the prolific and acclaimed crime author, suffered a stroke over a week ago and is currently recuperating in hospital in Detroit, Michigan, the city he’s called home since he was nine years old. The 87 year old’s researcher, Gregg Sutter, confirmed Leonard’s condition to the Detroit News in a matter-of-fact, unsentimental fashion worthy of his employer’s terse prose: ‘Elmore had a stroke; it happened a week ago, last Monday. He’s doing better every day, and the family is guardedly optimistic. He’s showing great spirit. He’s a fighter, and we’re glad to see that.’
Sutter also gave an update on what Leonard was working on prior to the stroke, saying ‘He’s very much into his 46th novel, working very hard’, which certainly suggests a work ethic that no piffling cerebrovascular accident is going to slow down. Leonard has averaged just shy of a novel a year since the publication of his debut, The Bounty Hunters, in 1953. His 45th – Raylan – was published in 2012 and was inspired by the success of the hugely popular FX TV show Justified, which is itself based on Leonard’s novels Riding the Rap, Pronto and the short story “Fire in the Hole”. That series has brought Leonard a level of popular attention he hasn’t received since the mid-90s trilogy of zetigeist-grabbing cinematic adaptations of his work: Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (retitled from Leonard’s Rum Punch) and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight.
Justified also contributed to Leonard’s impressive roster of awards, earning him a Peabody in 2011 to sit alongside his Grand Master Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America and his F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award for outstanding achievement in American literature. Last year he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution, the lifetime achievement prize of the National Book Awards. Here’s hoping that last will continue to prove premature.