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Elmore Leonard, bestselling crime novelist and screenwriter, dies

Elmore Leonard wrote dozens of bestsellers, many of which were adapted for the screen, including 'Jackie Brown,' 'Get Shorty,' 'Out of Sight,' '3:10 to Yuma,' and the FX series 'Justified.'

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Author Elmore Leonard works on a manuscript at his home in Bloomfield Township, Mich., September 2010. Leonard, a former adman who became one of America's foremost crime writers, died Tuesday morning. He was 87.

Carlos Osorio/AP

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He was the master of his genre, the Dickens of Detroit, the Chaucer of Crime.

Pretty much every novel Elmore Leonard wrote from the mid-1980s on was a best-seller, and every fan of crime stories knew his name. George Clooney was an admirer. So were Quentin Tarantino, Saul Bellow, and Stephen King, as well as millions of ordinary readers.

Leonard, who died Tuesday at age 87, helped achieve for crime writing what King did for horror and Ray Bradbury for science fiction. He made it hip, and he made it respectable.

When the public flocked to watch John Travolta in the movie version of "Get Shorty" in 1995, its author became the darling of Hollywood's hottest young directors. Book critics and literary stars, prone to dismissing crime novels as light entertainment, competed for adjectives to praise him. Last fall, he became the first crime writer to receive an honorary National Book Award, a prize given in the past to Philip Roth, Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller.

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