"Well, you've got to put in the time if you want to write a book," Leonard told The Associated Press in 2010 of the shift work that was befitting of his hometown's standing as the nation's automotive capital.
Leonard had sold his first story, "Trail of the Apache," in 1951, and followed with 30 more for such magazines as "Dime Western," earning 2 or 3 cents a word. At the time, he was working in advertising, but he would wake up early to work on his fiction before trudging off to write Chevrolet ads.
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.
"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.