Burnett, WR

WR Burnett William Riley Burnett (1900-1982) was a US pulp writer, best remembered today for the gangster story Little Caesar, made into a famous film with Edward G Robinson. Burnett grew up in Springfield, Ohio and became a civil service statistician. Moving to Chicago in 1927 gave him the inspiration for a series of gangster novels; and a trip to Tombstone gave him the background he needed for his Western stories. Burnett worked as a desk clerk in a Chicago hotel until the publication of Little Caesar in 1929. He also wrote 60 screenplays, including High Sierra and The Great Escape. Burnett also wrote as John Monahan and James Updyke. He married Whitney Forbes Johnson in 1943 and served as Statistician for the state of Ohio in 1921-1927.


In later years Burnett's vision declined and he stopped writing, promoting his earlier work instead. Burnett's work was taken up in French and German film magazines in the 1980s, resulting in greater fame for him in Europe than in America.


“My primary purpose was always the same as Balzac’s: to give the most realistic picture of the world around me that I could possibly do.”




Little Caesar (1929)

The Silver Eagle (1932)

Dark Hazard (1934)

High Sierra (1940)

The Quick Brown Fox (1943)

Nobody Lives Forever (1944)

Tomorrow's Another Day (1946)

Romelle (1947)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Little Men Big World (1952)

Vanity Row (1953)

Big Stan (1955)

Underdog (1957)

Conant (1961)

Round the Clock at Volari's (1961)

The Widow Barony (1962)

The Cool Man (1968)

Good Bye Chicago (1982)