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DETROIT -- Elmore Leonard, the beloved crime novelist whose acclaimed best-sellers and the movies made from them chronicled the violent deaths of many a thug and con man, has died. He was 87.

Leonard, winner of an honorary National Book Award in 2012, died Tuesday from complications from a stroke, according to his researcher.

His millions of fans, from bellhops to Saul Bellow, made all his books since "Glitz" (1985) best-sellers.

Leonard spent much of his childhood in Detroit and set many of his novels in the city. He didn’t have a best-seller until his 60th year, and few critics took him seriously before the 1990s.

In 1978, he was commissioned to write an article about the Detroit Police Department. He shadowed the cops for nearly three months. Starting with "City Primeval" in 1980, his crime novels gained a new authenticity. But sales remained light.

In 1985, "Glitz," a stylish novel of vengeance set in Atlantic City, became Leonard’s first best-seller.

Leonard never looked back.

His first novel, "The Bounty Hunters," was published in 1953, and he wrote four more in the next eight years. One of them, "Hombre," about a white man raised by Apaches, was a breakthrough for the struggling young writer. When 20th Century Fox bought the rights for $10,000 in 1967, he quit the ad business to write full time.

"Hombre" became a pretty good movie starring Paul Newman, and the book was named one of the greatest Westerns of all time by the Western Writers of America.

Leonard was born in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 1925.

He married three times and had five children, all from his first marriage.