Evan S. Connell, Writer of Eclectic Tastes, Dead at 88

Evan S. Connell wrote books on George Custer and the painter Francisco Goya as well as novels, essays and short stories

Evan S. Connell,  an American writer of remarkable breadth and eclectic tastes who wrote the novels "Mrs. Bridge" and "Mr. Bridge” as well as the history of Gen. George Armstrong Custer in “Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn,” has died. He was 88.

Connell was found dead in his home in Santa Fe, family members told the Associated Press. He had been in failing health for a number of years and died of natural causes.

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Connell was a favorite of literary critics, especially in the West, but except for his book on Custer, which was best-seller, seldom found a broad audience.

His novels about the Bridges, a Kansas City couple, were biting caricatures of middle-class life in America from the 1920-1940s. The books were written as a series a vignettes, some a sentence or two in length while others filled several pages. They portrayed the couple as distant, not only from themselves and each other, but from their children as well.

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The two novels were combined to make the 1990 movie, "Mr and Mrs. Bridge,” from Merchant-Ivory Productions and starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

His work on Custer was a best-seller when it was published in 1984 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle. It was later made into a television miniseries.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Page Stegner said of the Custer book:

"Mr. Connell is above all a storyteller, and the story he tells is vastly more complicated than who did what to whom on June 25, 1876," a reference to the day Custer and his 7th Cavalry met its demise on the Little Bighorn.

A native of Kansas City, Connell was born on August 17, 1924. His father and grandfather were physicians. His mother, the daughter of a judge, was a homemaker. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in English and studied creative writing at Stanford and Columbia Universities.

A writer of broad interests, his published 19 books, the Associated Press said Thursday in reporting his death, including two book-length poems as well as collections of essays, short stories and a biography of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya.

He lived for much of his life in San Francisco where he made his living doing a variety of odd jobs — he earlier had rejected the idea of  teaching because it was too soft. He moved to Santa Fe in the late 1980s.