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Robert Kroetsch, acclaimed Canadian author, dies in Alberta crash

Canadian author Robert Kroetsch, whose fanciful tale of an Alberta man travelling the countryside with his stud horse won a Governor General's award, has died in a car accident.

RCMP confirm the 83-year-old was killed in a crash that happened at a rural intersection southeast of Edmonton near Leduc on Tuesday. Police say five other people were injured, one critically.

"He was a great storyteller and great listener and very generous and a warm-hearted person," said Linda Cameron of the University of Alberta Press, Kroetsch's last publisher.

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"He had the ability to make you feel like you were the only person around while he was talking with you."

Kroetsch was perhaps best known for his 1969 novel The Studhorse Man, which won the Governor General's Literary Award.

The book details the often fantastical adventures of wily Hazard Lepage and his quest to preserve the bloodline of his rare blue stallion. The book is part tall tale and part mythical journey set in barns, beer halls and bathtubs and helped move Prairie fiction resolutely away from the dour realism of a previous generation of writers.

Kroetsch followed that up with 1973's Gone Indian and 1975's Badlands.

Born in Heisler in central Alberta, Kroetsch graduated from the University of Alberta, then worked in the Canadian North, several western provinces and the United States before he returned to Alberta, where he lived in a retirement community in Leduc.

"I spent many years travelling around the world, but I never left Alberta," Kroetsch said earlier this year. "It has always been a country of my imagination. I love the stories, the landscape and the people."

He published nine books of fiction, 14 books of poetry and seven non-fiction works.

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"I would characterize Robert as a western voice, because I think the voice is different in different parts of the country," Cameron said.

"Robert told us stories about ourselves and where we are from, and everybody could identify with some of Robert's stories and his poetry."

Kroetsch was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2004 and, earlier this year, received the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award.

Cameron said Kroetsch was writing right up until his death and has left at least one work in progress. Cameron said she was to meet with him later this week about his latest manuscript, a novella.

"Right now that is not anything we are thinking about," she said. "But it is one of those things that, somewhere down the road, there might be an opportunity ... to celebrate Robert's life appropriately."

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