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Crime novelist Elmore Leonard dies

Elmore Leonard was considered one of America's best crime writers. Many of his works were adapted for movies and television.

By Staff Writer / August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard wrote crime and Western novels and short stories.

Paul Sancya/AP

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Crime novelist Elmore Leonard has died.

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Leonard is most famous for his novels “Out of Sight,” “Freaky Deaky,” and “Get Shorty,” among others, and began his career by writing Western works, including the short story “Three-Ten to Yuma.” He also became well-known for his “10 Rules of Writing,” which he published in 2001 in the New York Times. (Maxims included “Never open a book with weather” and “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”)

“Mr. Leonard did not merely validate the popular crime thriller,” New York Times writer Marilyn Stasio wrote. “He stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf.”

Detroit News writer Susan Whitall said that Leonard's name "became a byword for tightly written urban noirs shot through with mordant humor.” 

Leonard was born in New Orleans, La. In 1925 and later moved to Detroit with his family, where he would live for the rest of his life. He served in the Navy and attended the University of Detroit before working at an ad agency as a copywriter. His first book, “The Bounty Hunters,” came out in 1953; “Three-Ten to Yuma” also came out that year.

He went on to publish more than 40 novels, making the switch to crime books in 1969 with “The Big Bounce,” and many of his works have been adapted for the screen. Two of his books, “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap,” as well as the short story “Fire in the Hole” feature the hero Raylan Givens, who is currently the basis for the FX series “Justified.” Leonard was involved with the TV show, serving as an executive producer, and released the novel “Raylan,” detailing the further adventures of the Kentucky marshal, in 2012.

The author was given the Grand Master Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1992 and was awarded the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award in 2008. Last year he received the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution, which is considered an honor for a lifetime of work.

“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10,” Leonard wrote in “10 Rules of Writing,” a book version of his suggestions. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

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