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Novelist, screenwriter Elmore Leonard dies at 87

Aug. 20, 2013 at 10:19 AM ET

GET SHORTY, Author Elmore Leonard on-set, 1995
Everett Collection
Leonard on the set of "Get Shorty" in 1995.

Elmore Leonard, the acclaimed crime novelist and screenwriter behind books like "Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight" that became hit movies, died on Tuesday morning at 87, according to his official website.

Specializing in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, Leonard also wrote short stories, one of which was turned into the FX TV series "Justified." Twenty of his works were adapted into films, highlighted by "Get Shorty," a hit 1995 film starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito, and "Out of Sight," a 1998 movie starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Another one of his works, "Rum Punch," became the Quentin Tarantino film “Jackie Brown,'' and a short story, "3:10 to Yuma," became a 2007 movie starring Russell Crowe. 

Leonard, who lived in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had been hospitalized on July 29 after suffering a stroke, his longtime researcher Gregg Sutter told Reuters. 

"The post I dreaded to write, and you dreaded to read,'' Sutter wrote on Leonard's Facebook page Tuesday. "Elmore passed away at 7:15 this morning from complications from his stroke. He was at home surrounded by his loving family."

Leonard was born in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 1925, the son of an executive for General Motors Corporation. His family moved to Detroit in 1934. After a stint in the navy, he graduated from the University of Detroit, married Beverly Cline in 1949 and began his career as a writer for an advertising agency. 

He wrote Westerns on the side, producing five novels and 30 short stories in the 1950s before quitting his job at the ad agency to write full-time in 1961. Many of his novels were set in his hometown of Detroit, and he began regularly selling his work to Hollywood by the late 1960s and early 1970s. He also began writing screenplays, including one for his own novel, "The Moonshine War." 

In 1985, his novel "Glitz'' became a New York Times bestseller, and his fame grew in the 1990s with the success of "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight," and "Jackie Brown." His 2000 novella, "Fire in the Hole,'' became the basis for the FX series "Justifield." In all, Leonard wrote 45 novels. 

He is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, according to his official bio. 

Video: In an excerpt from a July 9, 1983, broadcast, novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard takes NBC's Lloyd Dobyns on a tour of Detroit.





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