Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty succumbs aged 89

The author and filmmaker, most famous for his 1971 fiction about a possessed child, died of a form of blood cancer

William Peter Blatty, author of the novel The Exorcist and writer of its film adapation, has died aged 89.

Blatty was most famous for his 1971 horror tale, which told the story of a child is in possession of a demon. The image of the demonic Regan became iconic among horror fans and the novel was a huge bestseller, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for 57 straight weeks and at the No 1 spot for 17 of them. In 1973, Blatty won an Oscar for his screenplay of his own volume and later wrote and directed a film sequel, 1990 s The Exorcist III.

Blatty died on Thursday at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he lived. The news was announced on social media by Exorcist director William Friedkin on Friday. Blattys widow, Julie Alicia Blatty, told the Associated Press the cause of demise was multiple myeloma, a kind of blood cancer.

William Friedkin (@ WilliamFriedkin)

William Peter Blatty, dear friend and friend who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday

January 13, 2017

Hollywood paid tribute online immediately when the news was announced, with director Edgar Wright declaring Blatty peerless and horror writer Stephen King crediting him for writing the great horror novel of our time.

edgarwright (@ edgarwright)

Rest in peace William Peter Blatty, novelist of both the peerless horror ‘The Exorcist’ AND the funniest Clouseau film, ‘A Shot In The Dark’.

January 13, 2017

Stephen King (@ StephenKing)

RIP William Peter Blatty, who wrote the great horror novel of our time. So long, Old Bill.

January 13, 2017

Born in New York in 1928 to Lebanese immigrant parents, Blatty was raised by his piously Catholic mother after his father left when he was three. After completing a masters in English literature, he worked as a door-to-door salesman for a vacuum cleaner company, a beer truck driver and as a ticket agent for United Airline before enlisting in the US Air Force. He later joined the United States Information Agency as an editor stationed in Beirut, before leaving his career behind to focus on writing in the late 1950 s.

His 1960 autobiography, Which Way to Mecca, Jack? was followed by several comic fictions, including I, Billy Shakespeare( 1965 ), and Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane( 1966 ). While his writing was well received by critics Marvin Levin in the New York Times wrote: Nobody can write funnier lines than William Peter Blatty, a gifted superstar who writes like( SJ) Perelman marketings and commercial recognition had yet to come.

After winning $10,000 on Groucho Marxs gameshow You Bet Your Life and telling the host he planned to take some time off to work on a fiction, Blatty wrote and published The Exorcist in 1971. Despite obtaining excellent reviews, Blatty afterwards claimed the publisher, Harper and Row had deemed it a failure and that transcripts were being returned from bookstores by the carload until marketings took off. The 1973 movie, which sparked a hysterical wave of vomiting, fainting and fits in cinemas across the world, won two Academy Awarding and four Golden Globes.

Blatty,
Blatty, pictured with performers Linda Blair and Max Von Sydow at the 1973 Golden Globes ceremony. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

After the success of the book and cinema of The Exorcist, Blatty reworked Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! into a new volume called The Ninth Configuration in 1978. He adapted, directed and created a film version two years later. A meditation on Gods existence, the film was described as the finest large-scale American surrealist film ever made by Peter Travers in People magazine. It was nominated for three Golden Globes in 1981 and won the best writing award against The Elephant Man, Ordinary People and Raging Bull.

Blatty eventually returned to his Exorcist world, writing a 1983 sequel called Legion. A film sequel to his original, Exorcist II: The Heretic, had flopped at the box office six years before, and Blattys own sequel dismissed it altogether, instead forming the basis for the next in the film series, The Exorcist III.

In 1999, Blatty lamented that the Exorcist franchise had killed all appetite for his witticism. The sad truth is that nobody wants me to write comedy, he said in an interview. The Exorcist not only ended that career, it expunged all memory of its existence.

Blatty continued to write well into his eighties, releasing novels Elsewhere, Dimiter and Crazy in 2009 and 2010. He remained a committed Catholic, writing of his mother in 2015: My mothers faith in God which radiated out from her like sunlight. More things were wrought by Mamas prayers than even Tennyson dreamed. In 2012, Blatty sued his alma mater, Georgetown University, as he claimed it was failing to adhere to its Catholic identity. He afterward filed a canonical petition immediately to the Vatican, receiving a response from an archbishop in 2014 who called it a well-founded complaint.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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