10 Must-Read Elmore Leonard Novels

By Simon McDonald, Editorial Manager |

On this day last year, August 20, 2013,  the legendary writer Elmore Leonard passed away at the age of 87. With more than 40 novels to his name, selecting his top 10 is not an easy task, but these are our recommendations for readers wondering where to begin.

Get Shortywant_to_read_buttonCollecting money for the Mob isn’t too different from any other job, reckons Miami loan shark Chili Palmer. He soon finds himself ordered to collect on a bad debt from Leo Devoe, a guy who died in a plane crash. But it turns out Leo isn’t dead; he’s living it up in Las Vegas on the compensation money. So Chili follows him to Vegas and then on to Hollywood, where he gets drawn into the world of movies.


Fire in the Holewant_to_read_buttonIn this short fiction collection, Leonard once again illustrates how the line between the law and the lawbreakers is not as firm as we might think. The title story is the basis for the hit FX series Justified, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens meets up with an old friend, but they’re now on different sides of the law.


3 10 to Yumawant_to_read_buttonTrust was rare and precious in the wide-open towns that sprung up like weeds on America’s frontier — with hustlers and hucksters arriving in droves by horse, coach, wagon, and rail, and gunmen working both sides of the law, all too eager to end a man’s life with a well-placed bullet.


Rum Punchwant_to_read_buttonOrdell “Whitebread” Robbie makes a fine living selling illegal high-powered weaponry to the wrong people. Jackie Burke couriers Ordell’s profits from Freeport to Miami, but the feds are on to Jackie. Now the aging — but still hot — flight attendant will have to do prison time or play ball, which makes her a prime “loose end” that Ordell needs to tie up.


Hombrewant_to_read_buttonJohn Russell has been raised as an Apache. Now he’s on his way to live as a white man. But when the stagecoach passengers learn who he is, they want nothing to do with him — until outlaws ride down on them and they must rely on Russell’s guns and his ability to lead them out of the desert.


Out of Sightwant_to_read_buttonWorld-class gentleman felon Jack Foley is busting out of Florida’s Glades Prison when he runs head on into a shotgun-wielding Karen Sisco. Suddenly, he’s sharing a cramped car trunk with the classy, disarmed federal marshal, and the chemistry is working overtime. As soon as she escapes, he’s already missing her.


52 Pickupwant_to_read_buttonDetroit businessman Harry Mitchell had had only one affair in his 22 years of happy matrimony. Unfortunately, someone caught his indiscretion on film and now wants Harry to fork over one hundred grand to keep his infidelity a secret.


Killshotwant_to_read_buttonAt the worst possible time for both of them, ironworker Wayne Colson has come to the real estate office where his wife, Carmen, works. Armand Degas, an Ojibway Indian hit man, and loose cannon Richie Nix are here to shake down Carmen’s boss. And Wayne steps in the way. He sends the two off bleeding, and now the shooter for hire and Richie the ex-con have sworn to get the Colsons.


Split Imageswant_to_read_buttonPalm Beach playboy Robbie Daniels is the kind of guy who gets away with everything, even murder, until a vacationing Motown cop, Bryan Hurd, starts asking questions.


LaBravawant_to_read_buttonJoe LaBrava first fell in love with femme fatale movie queen Jean Shaw in a darkened theater when he was 12. Now he’s finally meeting his dream woman in the flesh, albeit in a rundown Miami crisis center.

Add the 10 Must-Read Elmore Leonard Novels to your Bookshelf!