The famed crime writer was 87 and working on his 46th novel at the time of his death

By Tim Nudd
August 20, 2013 10:05 AM
Vince Bucci/Getty

Elmore Leonard, the Detroit crime novelist who saw more than two dozen of his gritty works adapted into films, died Tuesday at age 87, less than a month after suffering a stroke, his official website confirmed.

“Elmore passed away this morning at 7:15 AM at home surrounded by his loving family,” a message on the site reads.

Leonard, known to friends and family as “Dutch,” was born in New Orleans but moved to Detroit before he was 10 and had lived in the area ever since. Known for his snappy dialogue, he originally wrote westerns but later moved into crime fiction, for which he would become famous.

He wrote 45 novels in all, along with numerous short stories. Some 26 of his works were adapted into movies and TV shows, including Hombre, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown (based on Rum Punch) and the F/X series Justified (based on Fire in the Hole).

Life of Crime, a movie based on his novel The Switch starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Mos Def, Isla Fisher and Tim Robbins, is set to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month.

Leonard’s crime fiction was so unique, it was hard to label – tough and spare, but with a sense of humor, in which even the con men had a conscience.

“Publishers kept telling me I was hard to sell,” Leonard told PEOPLE in 1985. “I’d tell them, ‘Why don’t you just say what I’m doing and sell it?’ I’m not the new Raymond Chandler, the new Dashiell Hammett. Hell, I hardly ever read those guys, even when I was a kid. Just call them Elmore Leonards.”

PHOTOS: Tributes: The Stars We’ve Lost in 2013