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Max Steele, at 83; author, professor

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Author Max Steele, who led the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's creative writing program for two decades, has died. He was 83.

Mr. Steele died Monday, the university announced Friday.

His books include ''Debby," ''The Cat and the Coffee Drinkers," and the story collections ''Where She Brushed Her Hair" and ''The Hat of My Mother."

His fiction brought him honors such as the Harper Prize, the Saxton Memorial Trust Award, the Mayflower Cup Award, and O. Henry Prize.

He was expert at the craft of writing and editing, helping students zero in on ''one good word instead of five weak ones," writer and fellow educator Doris Betts said. ''They never read fiction the same way again."

He was first published in Harper's magazine in 1944, two years before he graduated from UNC. He also attended Furman and Vanderbilt universities and the Sorbonne and Academie Julienne in Paris.

He was an editor of the literary magazine The Paris Review, wrote for it until recently, and is still listed on the masthead as an editorial associate. He also was an editor for Story magazine.

Mr. Steele became director of his alma mater's creative writing program in 1967, building it into a nationally recognized undergraduate program.

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