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Crime novelist Elmore Leonard dead at 87

'Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip'

Although his work captured the gritty sneer of the Old West, the grimy slush of modern Detroit and the tattered veneer of Hollywood, acclaimed crime novelist Elmore Leonard's work was about more than the surface.

Leonard, who died Tuesday morning, scoured genre pretenses from his work, whether pulp Westerns or crime novels, applying a masterful touch to deadpan dialogue and spare descriptions in his 45 novels and numerous screenplays.

Leonard, who was 87, died at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., three weeks after a stroke. He was a frequent visitor to Tucson; son Chris Leonard has lived here for nearly 40 years. Leonard made three appearances at the Tucson Festival of Books, including the inaugural event in 2009. His death was announced on his website.

His works were as varied as "Get Shorty," "Rum Punch" (filmed as "Jackie Brown"), "Out of Sight," "3:10 to Yuma," "Valdez is Coming" and "Mr. Majestyk" in a career that began with the publication of "The Bounty Hunters" in 1953. His most recently published novel was 2011's "Raylan."

Leonard's books were described as "not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half-century" when he was awarded the PEN Lifetime Achievement award in 2009.

Leonard said he wasn't a mystery writer. "There is never a mystery in my books in my plots. There are not whodunits. The reader knows as much as I do. The reader knows more than the main character does," he said.

Always penning his novels in longhand on paper, Leonard said he didn't own a computer.

"I have been using a pen now for nearly 50 years. It seems to work OK," he said.

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In his 2001 essay, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle," he advised, "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip."

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Elmore Leonard