William Peter Blatty, the novelist behind The Exorcist, has passed away. He was confirmed dead on Thursday at the age of 89, the cause of death being, as told by his widow, a form of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. Born on January 7, 1928 to Lebanese parents, Blatty graduated from college at Georgetown University before proceeding to get his master’s degree at George Washington University. His first novel, Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, was published in 1960, and was followed up with a series of novels that received much critical, if not commercial success.
Shortly after, Blatty started a collaboration with director Blake Edwards, writing the screenplays for films such as A Shot in the Dark and Darling Lilli. This would be followed up by the most well-received piece of his career The Exorcist, the story about a twelve-year old girl who gets possessed by the spirit of a malevolent demon. The book received critical recognition and would remain a New York Times bestseller for 57 weeks, and would eventually be adapted into a screenplay between Blatty and director William Friedkin – the film adaptation releasing two years after the novel’s debut. The Exorcist has since gone down as one of the greatest and most terrifying horror experiences in cinema, being nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, making it the first horror film to receive this honor.
Blatty would go on to publish and adapt more of his novels to film, among them Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane as well as The Ninth Configuration and the Exorcist prequel Legion and sequel The Exorcist III, the latter of which Blatty wrote and directed himself and is widely considered the better of the Exorcist follow-up films. Other works by the author in the past couple years included Elsewhere, Dimiter, Crazy, and last year’s Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death.
Blatty’s death was also announced by William Friedkin on Twitter a day after his passing, writing “William Peter Blatty, dear friend and brother who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday.”