Max Cherry from Rum Punch was modeled on Mike Sandy
Elmore Leonard got a lot more out of Palm Beach County than a place to get away from the brutal Michigan winters. He also got the setting and characters for a batch of his most popular novels.
From “Maximum Bob,” which he dedicated to the late Judge Marvin Mounts, to “Out of Sight” (about a jailbreak from Glades Correctional) to “Split Images” and “Rum Punch,” Leonard found South Florida — the perfect setting for his terse, epigrammatic outlaws and thugs.
Mike Sandy, a West Palm bail bondsman, remembers meeting him in the late ’80s.
“Marvin Mounts and Dutch Leonard walked into my office,” said Sandy. “My office was on Banyan, and he was just finishing ‘Maximum Bob.’ Dutch was interested in doing a book about a bail bondsman and said, ‘Can I ask for your help?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ “He was a little startled and said, ‘Why not?’
“Because everything I’ve ever seen, heard or read about bail bondsmen is negative and I don’t want to contribute to that.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” he said. “Share your files with me, and I promise you that whatever I write about your business will be positive.”
Leonard began borrowing files from Sandy, one of which involved a stewardess arrested for drug trafficking. From that came “Rum Punch,” later made into the movie “Jackie Brown” by Quentin Tarantino.
“He would ride around with me,” says Sandy. “I was listening to the Delfonics a lot at the time, and he used that in the book. Dutch would ask, ‘What does a bondsman do in this situation? What does he do if the guy runs?"
After the book was published, Leonard and his then-wife Joan, and Sandy and his wife remained friendly. Sandy believes that Leonard had trouble adjusting to the death of his wife, “She was more than his wife, she was his editor and proofreader. Everything he wrote, she read before he sent it to his publisher.”
Leonard was not an overnight success. He didn’t have a bestseller until he was 60. He started out writing Westerns and many of those were turned into movies: “3:10 To Yuma,” "Valdez Is Coming,” “Hombre.”
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