E.L. Doctorow, author of critically acclaimed historic fiction including the sprawling novels Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, has died. Doctorow was 84 and died of complications from lung cancer, his son Richard told the New York Times, which first reported the author’s passing.
In addition to a dozen novels, Doctorow also published multiple volumes of short stories, essays and the stage drama Drinks Before Dinner.
Ragtime was made into a feature film released in 1981 directed by Milos Forman. It starred James Cagney, Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn and Elizabeth McGovern. Ragtime was also adapted as a Broadway musical twice, one that opened in January 1998 and ran for a year, and a revival that opened in November 2009 and closed about two months later.
Other works that were adapted into feature films included Billy Bathgate (1991) directed by Robert Benton and starring Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean, Bruce Willis and Steven Hill. The Book of Daniel, his novel about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, was made into the movie Daniel released in 1983 by director Sidney Lumet and starring Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin, Lindsay Crouse, Edward Asner and Ellen Barkin.
The story Jolene was the basis for a 2008 film of the same name directed by Dan Ireland and starring Jessica Chastain, Frances Fisher, Rupert Friend and Dermot Mulroney. His first novel, the western Welcome To Hard Times, was published in 1960 and was made into a 1967 movie directed by Burt Kennedy and starring Henry Fonda, Janice rule and Keenan Wynn.
Early in his career Doctorow worked nearly a decade as a book editor, first at New American Library with the likes of Ian Fleming and Ayn Rand. Later he because editor in chief of the Dial Press publishing works of James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Ernest J. Gaines and William Kennedy, among others.
Numerous accolades for his fiction included PEN/Faulkner Awards for Billy Bathgate and The March, and National Book Critics Circle Awards for Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.
Doctorow was also a committed member of PEN, and was on the front lines of fighting on behalf of imprisoned writers around the world.