Elmore Leonard was born in 1925, New Orleans, but lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1934. He graduated from high school in 1944, joined the Seabees and was stationed in the Admiralty Islands, but saw no combat. When the war ended, he went to college in the University of Detroit, where he started to think about becoming a writer. After college, he got married and took a job at an advertising agency, first as a copy boy and later as a copy writer.
However, his real goal was to become a fiction writer, and since westerns interested him and there was, at the time, a demand for them, he started writing them. Trail of the Apache, his first published story, came out in December, 1951, in the pages of Argosy Magazine. During the next decade, he produced thirty pulp westerns stories and five complete western novels in addition to his advertising work.
However, by 1961 the western market dried up as televised westerns gained popularity, and Leonard was forced to seek new directions. He quit his job and decided to start writing full time. However, a wife and five children made it difficult for him, and he was forced to find freelance work in advertising and writing short documentaries for Encyclopedia Britannica Films.
In 1966, Leonard published his first crime novel, The Big Bounce. He also started to work in Hollywood, adapting his own work for film, and used the proceeds to finance his writing career. In the early 70's, he had reached a state of financial security that allowed him to concentrate on writing. His works soon reached a cult status and received critical acclaim, but it wasn't until 1984 that he made his real breakthrough with La Brava, followed by the best-seller Glitz.
Since then, Leonard has kept up a steady pace of about a book a year, with no signs of slowing down. Many of his works have been filmed, most notably Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and Out of Sight.
Leonard lives in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, with his wife.