Jim Harrison, the fiction writer, poet, outdoorsman, and reveler who wrote with gruff affection for the country's landscape and rural life and enjoyed mainstream success with his historical saga Legends of the Fall, has died at 78. A rep for Harrison's publisher told the AP that Harrison died Saturday at his home in Patagonia, Ariz. The cause of death was unknown. Harrison's wife of more than 50 years, Linda King Harrison, died last fall. The versatile author completed more than 30 books, most recently the novella collection The Ancient Minstrel, and was admired worldwide. Sometimes likened to Ernest Hemingway for the range and kinds of his interests, he was a hunter and fisherman who savored his time in a cabin near his Michigan hometown, a drinker and Hollywood script writer who was close with Jack Nicholson and came to know Sean Connery, Orson Welles, and Warren Beatty. He was a sports writer and a man of extraordinary appetite who once polished off a 37-course lunch, a traveler and teller of tales.
Published in 1979, Legends of the Fall was a collection of three novellas that featured the title story about Montana rancher Col. William Ludlow and his three sons, the narrative extending from before World War I to the mid-20th century, from San Francisco to Singapore. "Late in October 1914 three brothers rode from Choteau, Montana to Calgary, Alberta to enlist in the Great War," reads Harrison's celebrated opening sentence. The book was a best-seller, and Harrison worked on the script for an Oscar-nominated 1994 film. But he would liken the nerve wracking process to being trapped in a "shuddering elevator" and reminded himself of his marginal status by taping a putdown by a Hollywood exec, "You're just a writer," on a piece of paper above his desk. Click for the AP's full obituary. (Read more obituary stories.)