E.L. Doctorow, Author of ‘Ragtime,’ ‘Billy Bathgate,’ Dies at 84

E.L. Doctorow, the author of historical fiction whose writing were adapted into feature films including “Billy Bathgate,” “Daniel” and “Ragtime,” has died. He was 84.

The Bronx native died on Tuesday in Manhattan. The cause of death was complications due to lung cancer, his son, Richard, told the New York Times.

Doctorow penned a dozen novels published over the course of five decades between 1960 and 2014. Perhaps his most influential work, “Ragtime” was adapted for the screen in 1981 and again as a staged musical in 1998. In 1997, shortly before the musical opened, Doctorow told Variety that he much preferred the staged version, which he said “caught the spirit” of his writing, whereas the 1981 film “misread my text.”

Still, Variety critic Stephen Klain praised Doctorow in his 1981 review of the film, writing “The page-turning joys of E.L. Doctorow’s bestselling ‘Ragtime,’ which dizzily and entertainingly charted a kaleidoscopic vision of a turn-of-century America in the midst of intense social change, have been realized almost completely in Milos Forman’s superbly crafted screen adaptation.”

In addition to “Ragtime,” Doctorow’s first work, “Welcome to Hard Times,” was adapted into the 1967 Western of the same name. Likewise, the 1983 film “Daniel” and 1991 gangster film “Billy Bathgate,” which starred Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman, were also based on novels by the influential author.

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