19 opening lines that will make you want to read Elmore Leonard’s novels right now


Often called the “Dickens of Detroit”, Elmore Leonard wrote an incredible forty-five novels in a career spanning nearly sixty years. In 2010, he also wrote his Ten Rules for Writing, the first of which was “Never open a book with weather.” So what did he open his novels with? To see for yourself, check out nineteen awesome opening lines guaranteed to make you want to read his work right now.

“At first I wasn’t sure at all where to begin.”—Hombre (1961)

“They were watching Ryan beat up the Mexican crew leader on 16mm Commercial Ektachrome.”—The Big Bounce (1969)

“The war began the first Saturday in June 1931, when Mr. Baylor sent a boy up to Son Martin’s place to tell him they were coming to raid his still.”—The Moonshine War (1969)

“He could not get used to going to the girl’s apartment.”—52 Pick-Up (1974)

“The gentleman from Harper’s Weekly, who didn’t know mesquite beans from goat shit, looked up from his reference collection of back issues and said, ‘I’ve got it!’—Gunsights (1979)

“One day Karen DiCilia put a few observations together and realized her husband Frank was sleeping with a real estate woman in Boca.”—Gold Coast (1980)

“Moran’s first impression of Nolen Tyler: He looked like a high risk, the kind of guy who falls asleep smoking in bed.”—Cat Chaser (1982)

“The night Vincent was shot he saw it coming.”—Glitz (1985)

“Every time they got a call from the leper hospital to pick up a body Jack Delaney would feel himself coming down with the flu or something.”—Bandits (1987)


“Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”—Freaky Deaky (1988)

“When Chili first came to Miami Beach twelve years ago they were having one of their off-and-on cold winters: thirty-four degrees the day he met Tommy Carlo for lunch at Vesuvio’s on South Collins and had his leather jacket ripped off.”—Get Shorty (1990)

“Sunday morning, Ordell took Louis to watch the white-power demonstration in downtown Palm Beach.”—Rum Punch (1992)

“One evening, it was toward the end of October, Harry Arno said to the woman he’d been seeing on and off the past few years, ‘I’ve made a decision. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before in my life.’”—Pronto (1993)

“Foley had never seen a prison where you could walk right up to the fence without getting shot.”—Out of Sight (1996)

“The church had become a tomb where forty-seven bodies turned to leather and stains had been lying on the concrete floor the past five years, though not lying where they had been shot with Kalashnikovs or hacked to death with machetes.”—Pagan Babies (2000)

“Dennis Lenahan the high diver would tell people that if you put a fifty-cent piece on the floor and looked down at it, that’s what the tank looked like from the top of that eighty-foot steel ladder.”—Tishomingo Blues (2002)

“Late afternoon Chloe and Kelly were having cocktails at the Rattlesnake Club, the two seated on the far side of the dining room by themselves: Chloe talking, Kelly listening, Chloe trying to get Kelly to help entertain Anthony Paradiso, an eighty-four-year-old guy who was paying her five thousand a week to be his girlfriend.”—Mr. Paradise (2004)

“Carlos Webster was fifteen the day he witnessed the robbery and killing at Deering’s drugstore.”—The Hot Kid (2005)

“Raylan Givens was holding a federal warrant to serve on a man in the marijuana trade known as Angel Arenas, forty-seven, born in the U.S. but 100 percent of him Hispanic.”—Raylan (2011)

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