This year marked the passing of noteworthy people in every arena, including many writers who created best selling works and influenced what was seen on stage and screen. There were also several recent deaths among people who wrote best sellers (some with cowriters), but were not known as authors, such as George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Burt Reynolds, John McCain, and Anthony Bourdain. However, here are 10 writers who died in 2018, many of whom created works that live on in film and on stage as well:
London-born Evelyn Ward Thomas, who wrote under the name Evelyn Anthony, was 92 when she died in September. Anthony was initially a popular writer of historical fiction featuring Russian, English and French princesses, but she switched to writing contemporary spy thrillers in the 1970s. The prolific author produced a book almost every year for more than four decades while raising six children. Her 1971 novel, “The Tamarind Seed,” became a successful movie starred Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Also of note, she was named the High Sheriff of Essex in 1994, an ancient title bestowed annually dating back to the 10th century, but now ceremonial.
Prolific science fiction and horror, short story and screenwriter Harlan Ellison, 84, died in June. The Ohio-born writer used several pen names during his long career, including Cordwainer Bird, Ivar Jorgenson, and many others. He published or edited an estimated 1,700 pieces and 100 books, as well as many scripts for TV shows and films. However, he is best known for a classic Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and his “A Boy and His Dog” narratives.
In November, William Goldman died at 87 due to complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. The Chicago native was primarily celebrated for the Academy Award-winning screenplays he crafted for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and All the President’s Men. However, he also wrote novels, including “The Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man”(he also wrote the screenplay for those films, and a memoir highly recommended for anyone striving to become a screenwriter, too. Among the legends about him, Goldman reportedly wrote his first novel, “The Temple of Gold,” in 10 days.
Stephen Hawking, the British physicist and author idolized on “The Big Bang Theory” and whose life story was depicted in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything,” defied expectations that his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) would kill him in his 20s and died in March at age 76. Despite spending most of his life in a wheelchair and later needing a voice synthesizer to communicate, Hawking performed groundbreaking work in physics that catapulted him to international renown. He wrote or co-wrote 15 books, including ones that helped to make science more accessible to the public like the massive best seller “A Brief History of Time.”
The New York Times called the late Stan Lee the Superhero of Marvel Comics when he died in November. Born Stanley Martin Lieber in NY, Lee was 95 and still involved (and made cameos) in the box office blockbusters created about his DC and Marvel Comics characters. In collaboration with colleagues at Marvel, he created Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, the X-Men and more. In later life, Lee used his foundation to promote literacy and wrote books about his life and legacy.
Philip Roth, who was 85 when he died in May of congestive heart failure, was one of the most famous and honored American novelists. Roth authored more than 25 books that won him two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, and a Man Booker International Prize. The author was born in New Jersey, where he often set his books. Many of them were semi-autobiographical and reflected on the second-generation Jewish American experience. His best-known works, many of which became films, included “Goodbye, Columbus,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” “American Pastoral,” “The Human Stain,” and “Everyman.”
Boston-born Anita Shreve’s 19 books largely dealt with women enduring loss and change. The author, who died of cancer in March as age 71, also incorporated adventures from a few years of living in Kenya in her works. Her best known works include “Past the Island, Drifting,” which won the O. Henry Prize; and well as three that became movies: “The Weight of Water;” “Resistance;” and “The Pilot’s Wife,” which was an Oprah Book Club pick.
While he wrote two memoirs, Neil Simon is known for the plays and screenplays he developed in a prolific career. After winning a Tony Award in 1965 for “The Odd Couple,” he was the toast of Broadway. The following year, Simon had four shows appearing on Broadway simultaneously: “Barefoot in the Park,” “Sweet Charity,” “The Star-Spangled Girl,” and “The Odd Couple.” Many of his plots were set in his native New York City and were semi-autobiographical. Other award-winning works included “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the Tony-winning “Biloxi Blues,” and “Lost in Yonkers,” which won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. He died in August at 91 of renal failure and pneumonia. Simon also had Alzheimer’s disease.
V.S. Naipaul, a Trinidadian-born and Oxford-educated author of over 30 books during a five-decade writing career, was 85 when he died in August. The controversial author of the Booker and Nobel Prize-winning “A House for Mr. Biswas”and other volumes was largely known for three things: his work which often featured caustic examinations colonialism and its legacy, later works on Islamic fundamentalism, and his negativity toward “friends” and women.
Author Tom Wolfe was known for his New Journalism writing style (and turn of phrase), extravagant personality, and trademark white suits. His nonfiction best-sellers, such as “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test ,“ “The Right Stuff” and “From Bauhaus to Our House,” covered a wide variety of topics from Ken Kesey and his counter-culture Merry Pranksters to the seven Mercury astronauts to architecture. His first novel, “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” was also a massive hit. Born in Virginia, Wolfe lived for many years and died in NY from an infection at age 88.
By Dyanne Weiss
N.Y. Times: Notable Deaths 2018
Independent: VS Naipaul dead: Nobel Prize-winning British author dies aged 85
L.A. Times: William Goldman, Oscar-winning screenwriter of ‘Butch Cassidy’ and ‘All the President’s Men,’ dies at 87
Photo of Stephen Hawking at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in 2007 courtesy of NASA.