By Hillel Italie, AP
NEW YORK–Thomas Berger, the witty and eclectic novelist who reimagined the American West in the historical yarn “Little Big Man” and mastered genres ranging from detective stories to domestic farce, has died at age 89.
Berger’s literary agent, Cristina Concepcion, said Monday that he died in Nyack Hospital on July 13, just days before his 90th birthday. He had been in failing health, Concepcion said.
One of the last major authors to have served in World War II, Berger wrote more than 20 books, including the autobiographical “Rinehart” series, a “Little Big Man” sequel and “The Feud,” about warring families in a 1930s Midwest community. “The Feud” was recommended for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize by the fiction jury but was overruled by the board of directors, which awarded another Depression-era novel, William Kennedy’s “Ironweed.”
Berger’s biggest mainstream success was “Little Big Man,” published in 1964 and an ultra-wry tale of 111-year-old Jack Crabb, who alleges that he was abducted by Indians as a young boy and later fought with the Cherokees in the Battle of Little Big Horn. The novel was adapted into a 1970 movie of the same name, starring Dustin Hoffman.