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Author Frank McCourt dies at age 78


Frank McCourtFrank McCourt, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela's Ashes, died Sunday, July 19, 2009, of cancer. The 78-year-old McCourt had been battling a serious case of meningitis. Recently, he was diagnosed and treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which was ultimately the cause of his death.

For most of his adult life, Frank McCourt was known by local New Yorkers as a creative writing teacher and a colorful character. In 1996, a friend helped him get an agent. Not long after that, his unfinished manuscript for Angela’s Ashes was snapped up by Scribner.

McCourt enjoyed unexpected success with Angela’s Ashes, particularly for a non-celebrity memoir. It sold over a million copies, won the Pulitzer and was made into a movie of the same name. McCourt once said, "F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. I think I've proven him wrong. And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the 30 years I taught English in various New York City high schools."

McCourt rode the wave of his second-act success, becoming a regular fixture on the US literary circuit. He attended so many parties, conferences, readings, etc. that he likened himself to a "dancing clown, available to everybody."

In a 2005 interview with the Associated Press, McCourt said, "I wasn't prepared for it. After teaching, I was getting all this attention. They actually looked at me — people I had known for years — and they were friendly and they looked me in a different way. And I was thinking, `All those years I was a teacher, why didn't you look at me like that then?'"

The author followed Angela’s Ashes with two more memoirs: 'Tis and Teacher Man. He also wrote a children’s picture book, Angela and the Baby Jesus.

In a statement, Carolyn Reidy, president of Simon & Schuster, said, "We have been privileged to publish his books, which have touched, and will continue to touch, millions of readers in myriad positive and meaningful ways."

The twice-married McCourt had a daughter, Maggie McCourt, from his first marriage. His brother Malachy McCourt is an actor, commentator and singer.

Photo credit: Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images

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  • Megan, Denver Writing Examiner 5 years ago

    Great minds and all that--my article today was on Frank McCourt too. About his legacy.