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Tag: In Memoriam (21-30 of 64)

Author-critic Albert Murray dead at 97

Albert Murray, the influential novelist and critic who celebrated black culture, scorned black separatism, and was once praised by Duke Ellington as the “unsquarest man I know,” died Sunday. He was 97.

Murray died at home in his sleep, according to Lewis Jones, a family friend and Murray’s guardian.

Few authors so forcefully bridged the worlds of words and music. Like his old friend and intellectual ally Ralph Ellison, Murray believed that blues and jazz were not primitive sounds, but sophisticated art, finding kinships among Ellington and Louis Armstrong and novelists such as Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway.

He argued his case in a series of autobiographical novels, a nonfiction narrative (South to a Very Old Place), an acclaimed history of music (Stomping the Blues) and several books of criticism. Although slowed by back trouble, Murray continued to write well into his 80s, and also helped Wynton Marsalis and others stage the acclaimed Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts. Millions of television viewers came to know him as a featured commentator in Ken Burns’ documentary series Jazz.
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Mystery writer Barbara Mertz dies at 85

Barbara Mertz, a best-selling mystery writer who wrote dozens of novels under two pen names, has died. She was 85.

Mertz died Thursday morning at her home, in Frederick, Md., her daughter Elizabeth told her publisher HarperCollins.

Mertz wrote more than 35 mysteries under the name Elizabeth Peters, including her most popular series about a daring Victorian archaeologist named Amelia Peabody. She also wrote 29 suspense novels under the pen name Barbara Michaels, and under her own name, she wrote nonfiction books about ancient Egypt.

Born Barbara Louise Gross, Mertz grew up in small-town Illinois during the Depression and went to the University of Chicago on scholarship, where she wrote on her website, “I was supposed to be preparing myself to teach — a nice, sensible career for a woman.”

But her true love was archaeology, and she soon found herself drawn to the department of Egyptology. She received a Ph.D. at the age of 23.
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Scottish author Iain Banks dies

Scottish writer Iain Banks, who alternately wowed and disturbed readers with his dark jokes and narrative tricks, has died, his publisher said Sunday. He was 59.

Banks, whose writing took readers from rural Scotland to the edge of space, announced in April that he was terminally ill with cancer and that his soon-to-be released novel, The Quarry, would be his last.

A message on a website set up to provide updates to family, friends and fans quoted his wife Adele as saying Banks died in the early hours of Sunday. “His death was calm and without pain,” she said.

His publisher, Little Brown, said in a statement that Banks’ “ability to combine the most fertile of imaginations with his own highly distinctive brand of gothic humor made him unique. He is an irreplaceable part of the literary world.” READ FULL STORY

Award-winning author Jack Vance dies at 96

Jack Vance, an award-winning mystery, fantasy, and science fiction author who wrote more than 60 books, has died. He was 96.

Vance died Sunday evening at his home in Oakland, his son John Vance II told the Associated Press.

Jack Vance, whose legal name was John Holbrook, published most of his work as Jack Vance, but he also wrote 11 mysteries as John Holbrook Vance and three as Ellery Queen, as well as books under the pen names of Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See and Jay Kavanse, according to the Jack Vance website, which is maintained by family and friends.

“This is a complex guy, and (there’s) an awful lot to say about him,” John Vance told the AP.

In 2009, a profile in the New York Times Magazine described Vance as “one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices,” according to the website. READ FULL STORY

Chinua Achebe, author of 'Things Fall Apart,' dies at age 82

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author, activist, and teacher, has died at 82 following a brief illness.

Achebe graduated from the University College of Ibadan, in 1953 and afterward worked as a Nigerian radio broadcaster. In his twenties, he began work on what would become the defining work of his career — and a continent: Things Fall Apart, published in 1958.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the effect of the book, which as become, in the more than 50 years since publication, the archetype for African fiction and a fountainhead for postcolonial literature. African scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah has said, “It would be impossible to say how Things Fall Apart influenced African writing. It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians.”

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British horror author James Herbert dies at 69

He was a “Grand Master” of horror and rats were one of his specialties.

British horror writer James Herbert, whose best-selling spine-tinglers included “The Rats” and “The Fog,” has died at age 69.

Herbert’s publisher, Pan Macmillan, said he died Wednesday at his home in Sussex, southern England. It did not disclose the cause.

The London-born Herbert studied graphic design, print and photography before finding work at an advertising agency.

His first novel, “The Rats” — which depicted London being overrun by mutant flesh-eating rodents — took 10 months to complete and was published in 1974. It sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and was later turned into a film.

He went on to write 23 novels, selling 54 million copies around the world.

Most recent bestsellers included “Nobody True” and “The Secret of Crickley Hall,” which was turned into a three-part series for BBC television that aired in December.

Jeremy Trevathan, Herbert’s editor for ten years at Macmillan, said Herbert had the “rare distinction” of seeing his novels deemed classics of the horror genre within his lifetime.

“It’s a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death,” Trevathan said in a statement. “His death marks the passing of one of the giants of popular fiction in the 20th century.”

Herbert was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010 — the same year he was named “Grand Master of Horror” by the World of Horror Convention.

He is survived by his wife Eileen and three daughters.

Legendary music biz executive Clive Davis opens up about Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson, and his own bisexuality in new memoir

Soundtrack-of-My-Life

It is almost easier to list the artists legendary music business executive Clive Davis hasn’t worked with than the ones he has during his half century-long career. Suffice it to say that the founder of Arista and J Records and the current chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment has overseen releases by everyone from voice-of-his-generation Bob Dylan to Milli Vanilli who, as it turned out, weren’t even the voices of themselves.

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'Three Cups of Tea' co-author David Oliver Relin dies at age 49

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David Oliver Relin, co-author of the 2006 best-selling inspirational memoir Three Cups of Tea, died on Nov. 14 in Oregon at age 49. Relin had been suffering from depression and committed suicide, according to a family spokesperson.

The book, co-authored with Greg Mortenson, came under fire in 2011 when 60 Minutes and author Jon Krakauer alleged that it misrepresented or fabricated basic facts, particularly passages about Mortenson’s rescue by the citizens of Korphe, Pakistan, and the number of schools built by Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute. READ FULL STORY

David Rakoff, author and 'This American Life' contributor, dies at 47

UPDATED: David Rakoff — a sharp, sardonic wit who delighted listeners of This American Life and readers of his books of essays — died after a two-year fight with cancer on Thursday. He was 47.

Born in Canada, Rakoff started his career in publishing, where he struck up a friendship with author and humorist David Sedaris. Through Sedaris, Rakoff also got to know an NPR reporter named Ira Glass, and when Glass started his hour long public radio show This American Life, Rakoff was one of its earliest contributors. (He’s also one of the rare few who has guest hosted the show.) “[His death] was no surprise,” Glass wrote Friday on the This American Life blog. “He’d been talking about it for months. He even named August as when it would happen. We’ve watched him get weaker and sicker. But still it’s hard not to be stunned. … He was my friend, our friend here at the radio show, and our brother in creating the program, making it into what it’s become. We loved him. We’ll miss him.”

Through his This American Life appearances and his books of collected essays, including 2001′s Fraud and 2005′s Don’t Get Too Comfortable, Rakoff quickly established his singular worldview: A bemused, trenchant pessimism, informed in equal measure by his Jewish cultural heritage, his homosexuality, and his inveterate loyalty to his adopted home of New York City. READ FULL STORY

Novelist Gore Vidal dies at age 86

How do you sum up a career as eclectic as that of Gore Vidal, who died Tuesday at age 86 of complications from pneumonia? He was a novelist, of course, the acclaimed author of 25 novels (from scandalous best-sellers like Myra Breckinridge to scholarly works like Burr and Lincoln). But he also wrote more than 200 essays, seven plays (his 1960 political drama The Best Man had a critically praised revival on Broadway in 2012 starring James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury), and nobody knows how many TV and movie scripts (including an uncredited rewrite on the 1959 classic Ben-Hur). He was a political pundit who famously came close to fisticuffs with William F. Buckley Jr. during a live TV debate at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was also an actor (in movies such as Gattaca and With Honors), a game show panelist (What’s My Line?), and a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s sofa (where he made witty banter during 16 Tonight Show appearances, almost as many as Charo).

“I never thought about myself as a ‘personality,’’’ Vidal told EW back in 2006, when he was promoting Point to Point Navigation, a second volume of personal memoirs. “To go around in a purple suit or something just to get attention — that’s not my style. But you’ve got to amuse yourself somehow, you know? And I find that being on TV is a lot more amusing than actually watching it.’’

Vidal’s health—and luck—had been on a long slide since 2003, starting with the illness and death of his longtime partner, Howard Auster. He was forced to sell Swallows Nest, his beloved cliff-side villa in Ravello, Italy, and spent his final years ensconced in his Hollywood Hills home, a sprawling abode filled with framed photographs of the famous friends he’d made over the years. In his living room, he kept a somber picture of Jackie Kennedy, apparently taken in the early 1960s. “To Gore,” she scrawled across her frowning visage, “who makes it impossible to look this serious.”

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