Writer William Peter Blatty, 89, died of cancer on January 12, 2017 in New York. Blatty is best known for horror classic The Exorcist (1971). He wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning film adaptation (1973), as well as the sequel The Exorcist III (1990), which he also directed. Other books of genre interest include Legion (1983, the basis for The Exorcist III) and Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable (1996).
Blatty was born January 7, 1928 in New York City. He attended Georgetown on a scholarship and got his master’s in English literature from George Washington University. He worked various jobs, including as a vacuum cleaner salesman, truck driver, and airline ticket agent before joining the US Air Force, where he helped run the psychological warfare division. He joined the United State Information Agency and worked for a time as an editor in Beirut, and later worked in the states in public relations.
In the ’50s he contributed to the Saturday Evening Post, ghostwrote bestseller Dear Teenager (1959) for advice columnist Abigail “Dear Abby” van Buren, and published memoir “Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, about his time in Lebanon (1959). First novels John Godlfarb, Please Come Home (1962), I, Billy Shakespeare (1965), and Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane! (1966) were humor. He began writing screenplays for comedy films, first with director Black Edwards, including A Shot in the Dark (1964) and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966), and was soon working regularly in Hollywood.
He continued to write prose, and The Exorcist was his breakout success there, spending 57 weeks in a row on the New York Times bestseller list. He continued to work in film and write books for the remainder of his life, producing memoir I’ll Tell Them I’ll Remember You (1973) and novels Elsehwere (2009), Dimiter (2010), and Crazy (2010), among other works. He won a Stoker Award for Life Achievement in 1998.
Blatty was predeceased by his son Peter (died 2006) and is survived by wife Julia Alicia Witbrodt.