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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Elmore Leonard to be honored by the National Book Foundation and The Library of America

The National Book Foundation announced this morning that Elmore Leonard will receive the 2012 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, awarded each year since 1988 to “a person who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” In addition, he will join the Library of America series in fall 2014 with a volume of his crime novels from the 1970s, with additional volumes to follow. The LOA collections will be edited by Gregg Sutter, Mr. Leonard's longtime research assistant.

The Library of America issued the following statement: "Elmore Leonard recharged the American crime novel, fusing noirish humor, razor-sharp observation, and extraordinary narrative mastery in a long string of novels written to a dazzlingly high standard. Whether his background is Detroit's urban sprawl, Florida's sun-drenched rot, or the cut-rate glitz of Atlantic City casinos, Leonard conjures a world of anarchic and terrifyingly random danger. He puts in play a brilliant cavalcade of American characters—cops and killers, movie stars and con artists, judges and go-go dancers—whose language, Leonard's most brilliant creation, is a jazzy and perpetually surprising reinvention of American talk."

The LOA publication will make Mr. Leonard one of four living writers to have distinct volumes in the series devoted their writing, joining Philip Roth, John Ashbery, and W. S. Merwin (whose collected poems will be published in spring 2013). Eudora Welty and Saul Bellow were also inducted into The Library of America during their lifetimes.

Ashbery, Bellow, Roth, and Welty all received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Other past honorees include such authors as Ray Bradbury, Gwendolyn Brooks, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Norman Mailer, David McCullough, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and Tom Wolfe. (See that National Book Foundation’s site for a complete list of past medal winners.)

The Library of America, an independent nonprofit organization, seeks to foster greater appreciation for our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing. There are over 230 volumes in the series to date, among them editions of classic crime writing by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and David Goodis, and the two-volume collection American Noir: Crime Novels of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

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