DETROIT (AP) — He was the master of his genre, the Dickens of Detroit, the Chaucer of Crime.
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, Aerosmith, Saul Bellow and Stephen King, not to mention bellhops, waiters, accountants and millions of others.
Leonard, who died Tuesday morning 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 entertainments, 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.