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William Peter Blatty, ‘Exorcist’ Author, Dies at 89

He won an Oscar for the screenplay of his famous horror novel

William Peter Blatty, author of the famed horror novel “The Exorcist,” died Thursday at the of age 89. His death was confirmed Friday on Twitter by William Friedkin, the director of the film adaptation of Blatty’s book.

Released in 1971, “The Exorcist” is regarded as one of the seminal works in horror fiction. Prior to writing “The Exorcist,” Blatty started his career in Hollywood as the writing partner of comedy auteur Blake Edwards, working on scripts for films such as the 1964 film “A Shot In The Dark,” which featured Inspector Clouseau in the sequel to “The Pink Panther.”

After his time with Edwards, Blatty released “The Exorcist,” a story about two Jesuit priests tasked with exorcising a young girl possessed by a violent demon. The novel was a smash success, staying on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List for more than a year.

Two years later, the book was adapted by Friedkin and Blatty into a critically-acclaimed film that stunned audiences with its profane language, gruesome special effects, and the famous spider-walk scene. Blatty won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Golden Globe for Best Picture as producer of the film. “The Exorcist” also became the first horror movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Blatty died at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he resided. Julie Blatty, his wife, told the Associated Press the cause of his death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.