Writing a best seller is a dream for many writers, much less writing one that draws worldwide fame and accolades. These individuals all had tremendous success reaching a vast audience with their work in different areas in which they chose to write. They have captured the imagination of countless readers and created indelible characters from Clifford, the big red dog in children’s books, to political journalism to tales of growing up that transported reader to other socio economic environments. Among the top authors/editors who died in 2014 are several whose works have been brought to the screen (or they have been portrayed in nonfiction movies), and all of them will live in in future generations of readers.
Here are some notable writers who died in 2014:
Gabriel Garcia Márquez – Columbia-born Garcia Márquez wrote fantastical works imbued with doses of realism and imagination like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. The author, whom many consider to be one of the most significant Spanish-language novelists, won the Nobel prize for literature in 1982. A supporter of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, he often was denied entry into the United States until one of his fans, Bill Clinton, revoked the ban during his Presidency. The author died in April in Mexico. He was 87.
Maya Angelou – Beloved as a poet and memoirist, Angelou was a high school dropout who later became a college professor and wrote 36 books. Her life was a cornucopia of American black and female experiences that were reflected in her work. The Missouri-born writer was raped at 8 by her mother’s boyfriend, who was jailed for only one day and then murdered. The experience left Angelou mute for five years. During high school, she was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco and gave birth to a son three weeks after graduation. She then became a professional dancer and singer, toured Europe in Porgy and Bess, released an album, and acted in several plays. Her son went to Ghana for college and she joined him and began writing there. She also directed on Broadway and a feature film. Angelou died in her Winston-Salem, NC, home in May at age 86.
Peter Matthieson – A Manhattan native, Matthiessen was a rugged outdoorsman, naturalist, writer in several genres and Central Intelligence Agency agent. In the early 1960s, he helped found The Paris Review with childhood friend George Plimpton. Years later, Plimpton found out that Matthiessen helped found the publication as a cover for his activities as a spy for the. Matthiessen wrote nonfiction and fiction. He won National Book Awards for Shadow Country and The Snow Leopard. He died of leukemia in NY at age 86, shortly before his final novel, In Paradise, was published.
P.D. James –British crime writer Phyllis Dorothy James died in November at age 94 in Oxford, England. She worked in forensic science and the public health service prior to publishing the first of her more than 20 books, many of which featured sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, when she was 42. Her best known novels include The Children of Men, The Murder Room and the Pride and Prejudice spin-off Death Comes to Pemberley, which was a recent BBC One/Masterpiece Theatre mini-series. Her mother was committed to an asylum when she was 14, leaving her to raise her siblings. Her husband was mentally incapacitated by WWII and also institutionalized, leaving her to raise her two daughters. She eventually ran five psychiatric clinics for the health service and then in criminal policy for the Home Office while dabbling in writing. It was not until her eighth book, Innocent Blood, that she had a massive bestseller and she could think of giving up the day job.
Joe McGinniss – McGinnis wrote several nonfiction best sellers including Fatal Vision, a masterwork about a Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald who was convicted of murdering his wife and daughters; The Selling of the President 1968, about the rising influence of PR in politics long before spin doctors came out of the woodwork, and Going to Extremes, about how different life is in Alaska circa 1980. His last book was 2010’s The Rogue, about Sarah Palin. McGinnis died of cancer in Massachusetts in March at age 71.
Norman Bridwell – The Indiana-born Bridwell was the author and illustrator of the 40 best-selling books about Clifford, the big red dog beloved by generations of children for the past 50 years. The gigantic, 25-foot-tall dog and his 8-year-old friend Emily Elizabeth (named after Bridwell’s own daughter) became TV cartoon stars and toys. The TV cartoons. Two more Clifford books were written prior to he died at age 86 this fall and will be out in 2015.
By Dyanne Weiss