Notable authors that passed away during January 2009:
Mystery author Donald E. Westlake dies at 75
Westlake was a prolific mystery writer who won three Edgar Awards and an Academy Award nomination for screenplay and had a career spanning five decades. The author of more than 90 books -- most of them written on a typewriter -- Westlake wrote under a variety of pseudonyms including Richard Star, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt and Edwin West -- in part because people didn't believe he could write so much, so fast.
His best known character is John Dortmunder, who showed up in a series of books, comic in tone, but was about Dortmunder's efforts at organized crime.
Donald Edwin Westlake was born July 12, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was raised in Yonkers and in Albany and attended several colleges in New York state but did not graduate. He served in the Air Force in the 1950s.
Christopher Hibbert, 84, Lively Historian, Dies
Mr. Hibbert won a wide readership with his popular approach to historical subjects and his gift for narrative, on display in more than 60 books. He told the Sunday Times of London in 1990: "The main aim is to entertain and tell a good accurate story without attempting to make historical discoveries or change historical opinion in any way. You've got to make the reader want to know what's going to happen next, even if you're writing about something the outcome of which is well known."
Arthur Raymond Hibbert was born in Enderby, Leicestershire. He left Oriel College, Oxford, to join the Army where his sergeant major called him Christopher Robin. The "Christopher" stuck. After his military service, he return to Oxford, where he earned a history degree.
British writer John Mortimer dead at 85
John Mortimer, barrister, author, playwright and creator of Horace Rumpole, the cunning defender of the British criminal classes, died at his home in Oxfordshire, England.
He published his first novel in 1947. His most popular creation was Rumpole, the barrister who would take on any case, and usually triumphed. Played on television in "Rumpole of the Bailey" by Leo McKern, Rumpole had a passion for the underdog, a love of poetry and a wife he referred to as "she who must be obeyed." Rumpole, who appeared in a TV series and a string of novels and stories, began as a BBC teleplay in 1975 and the television series was produced in Britain beginning in 1978.
John Clifford Mortimer was born on April 21, 1923, in London. He attended Brasenose College, Oxford and worked as a barrister in the British courts.
Prize-winning writer Hortense Calisher dies at 97
Calisher, the author of more than 20 books, was a three-time nominee for the National Book Award and a four-time winner of the O. Henry Prize for the short story. Her admirers included Anne Tyler, Cynthia Ozick and Joyce Carol Oates. But few outside the literary world knew much about her. Once a familiar name in The New Yorker and elsewhere, the author saw most of her books go out of print. She was a "writer's writer" whom even admirers considered a challenge to read.
She was born on Dec. 20, 1911 in Manhattan, which became the setting for much of her fiction. She graduated from Barnard College in 1929 and then worked as a sales clerk, a model and social worker. In 1935 she married Heaton Bennet Heffelfinger and moved to Nyack, N.Y., where for years she wrote poetry. While enrolled in a writing course in Nyack, she turned out a series of semi-autobiographical stories about a family she called Elkin. The New Yorker published five of them, and her career was begun.
John Updike, Author, Dies at 76
He was a literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists. Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir Self-Consciousness and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He was prolific, even compulsive, releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. He won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest and two National Book Awards.
Born in Reading, Pa., in 1932, Updike was the only child of a mother who dreamed of being a writer and a father who taught high school and struggled with an inferiority complex. He attended Harvard University on a scholarship and briefly worked at The New Yorker before moving to the suburbs north of Boston.
Updike’s best known works were the four “Rabbit” books, which, over a period of 30 years, told the story of the loves and losses of one-time high school basketball star Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.