In Remembrance

Elmore Leonard had a way with people — and pens


Photograph by Joe Vaughn

Hour Detroit magazine featured novelist Elmore Leonard, who died on August 20 at his home in Birmingham, in the March, 2003 issue. For Instruments For Inspiration, below, photographer Joe Vaughn captured Leonard at his desk, and Hour Detroit’s former editor and longtime Detroit journalist Rebecca Powers talked to him about what he used regularly in his craft. Of course Leonard, a disciplined crime writer who could write a cop character like no other, was working on yet another novel at the time: Mr. Paradise, which was published in 2005. Leonard was “really generous with his time,” Powers says. “He answered his phone and was really accessible, which was surprising, given his fame.” 

Monica Mercer

Instruments For Inspiration

Novelist Elmore Leonard, pictured here at his writing desk in the living room of his regency-style Birmingham home, Jan. 23, 2002, is working on a book tentatively titled Mr. Paradise. His desktop needs are simple and very specific.

Paper: Special-order, buff-yellow unlined writing pads, 8 1/2 by 11. (“The kind of pads we used in the ‘50s at Campbell-Ewald.”) He orders his paper in lots of 50 pads, 60 sheets each, “So I have 3,000 sheets that last me a year.”

Pen: Pilot Precise V7 with blue ink. Last fall, the makers of Pilot pens sent him one each of their various models. “I tried them and wrote my opinion. The Precise V7 was my favorite, so they sent me seven Precise V7 models that will write 90,000 words [total]. They said it would take me seven pens to write my next book and said, ‘Here’s your next book.’

“I began writing with a 29-cent Scripto. Then I switched to a dollar pen, but it had to be orange. I upgraded to a $7.95 pen. I had a couple of those. Then I moved up to a good pen, a Montblanc. It was a table favor at a literary event. I used that for several books and then I switched to a Papermate Ultra Fine Flair and that’s when I switched to blue ink.”

Typewriter: IBM Wheelwriter 1000

Dictionary: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate

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