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Warren Adler, Author of ‘The War of the Roses,’ Dies at 91

Warren Adler, the novelist, playwright and poet whose novel “The War of the Roses” was adapted into the dark comedy starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, has died. He was 91.

His son, David Adler, said that his father died on Monday of complications from liver cancer.

Adler was the author of 50 novels, and sold the rights to a number of them for film, TV and stage adaptations. They included “Random Hearts,” which was turned into a 1999 movie directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas; and “The Sunset Gang,” which was adapted into a PBS “American Playhouse” in 1991, with Jerry Stiller, Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Doris Roberts in the cast. “The Sunset Gang” was later adapted into an off-Broadway musical.

Another novel, “American Quartet,” part of his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery stories, was optioned by NBC and Lifetime.

Four months before his 1991 novel “Private Lies,” was published, it garnered $1.2 million in a studio bidding war for the rights, at the time believed to be the most Hollywood producers ever paid for a work that had yet to hit the bookstores. Tristar bought the rights, but it was not ultimately produced.

“I write about people in their 30s and 40s on the cusp of making decisions for the second half of their life, and I have a feeling that interests them. The stories are original,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” that year. “They come to me before I can even get the material out of my computer.”

Nevertheless, he said that he didn’t write his novels thinking of how they would be adapted to TV, movies or the stage.

“I write my books the way I want to, and I never repeat myself,” he said.

Perhaps no other work had quite the cultural impact as “The War of the Roses,” a dark and even macabre take on divorce. The 1989 movie grossed almost $87 million at the box office and has been optioned for a Broadway production, in addition to ongoing international theater productions.

The success of the book and the movie was ironic, given that Adler and his wife, Sonia Kline, were married for 68 years.

Most of his works captured the complexities of human relationships and the challenges in coping with life’s discord. His most recent work, “Last Call,” was a love story about two 80-year-olds.

Adler was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated with a degree from New York University in English literature, After college, he went into journalism, working first for the New York Daily News and later as editor of the Queens Post. During the Korean War, he served as an Army correspondent for the Armed Forces Press Service.

He later went into business, owning four TV stations and a radio station, and then launching his own advertising and public relations firms, Warren Adler Ltd.

In 1974 he published his first novel, “Undertow,” a suspense tale of a married senator who has a tryst with a woman at his beach house, and later discovers that she has accidentally drowned.

In addition to his wife and son David, the CEO of the event industry trade media company Bizbash, Adler is survived by son Jonathan, producer and head of Grey Eagle Films, which owns the rights to Adler’s works, and his son Michael, an actor and creative vice president of Grey Eagle.

Graveside funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday in King David Memorial Gardens, 7482 Lee Highway in Falls Church, Va. The family will be sitting shiva on Thursday evening at the home of Mary and Jonathan Adler, 7804 Westfield Dr. Bethesda, Md.

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