Peter Straub, Bestselling Novelist and ‘The Talisman’ Co-Author, Dies at 79

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Peter Straub, a bestselling novelist who co-authored two beloved books with Stephen King, has died at the age of 79.

Straub’s daughter, Emma Straub, also a novelist, confirmed the news Tuesday on her Instagram account.

According to The New York Times, his wife, Susan Straub, said his death was caused by complications from breaking a hip. He died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Fellow writers and collaborators have been mourning the author’s death on social media, including Neil Gaiman, who was one of the first to express his sadness at Straub’s death (“Always kind, funny, irascible, brilliant,” Gaiman said).

King, whose latest novel “Fairy Tale” debuts in bookstores Tuesday, wrote: “Working with him was one of the great joys of my creative life.”

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Straub’s first horror novel, “Julia,” was published in 1975 by Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. It was adapted into a feature, known as either “Full Circle” or “The Haunting of Julia,” which starred Mia Farrow and Keir Dullea, that was released in 1977. By 1979, with the release of “Ghost Story,” Straub had become a bestselling novelist. It too was adapted into a feature film, this time by Universal Pictures in 1981 (the adaptation starred Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman).

King wrote favorably about “Ghost Story” and the two authors had become friends when King moved his family to London in 1977. King’s stay only lasted a few months, and when Straub moved back to the United States, the idle chatter about collaborating become much more concrete.

The result of King and Straub’s collaboration was 1981’s “The Talisman,” a fantasy adventure that follows a young boy named Jack Sawyer who, in an effort to save his dying mother, travels to a parallel universe known as the Territories in search of a magical cure.

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“The Talisman” was a sensation and further cemented Straub’s place as one of horror and fantasy fiction’s greatest novelists. Since the book’s publication, Steven Spielberg and his team at Amblin have been eager to turn the book into a movie. After decades of work, it looks to finally be happening, this time as a Netflix limited series from the Duffer Brothers (they recently installed one of their “Stranger Things” lieutenants as a showrunner).

Straub would continue to write on his own (1989’s “Koko” won the World Fantasy Award, while “The Throat,” “The Hellfire Club” and “Mr. X” all won Bram Stoker Awards) and would re-team with King on 2001’s “Black House.” This time it followed Sawyer as an adult cop who is investigating a series of murders in a small Northwestern town (among other things, the narrative was gently realigned to fit more closely with King’s Dark Tower mythology). It was another bestseller and was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

The author continued to write and inspire (his last novel was published in 2010 and his last collection of short stories in 2016 with a short novella published in 2017). As late as 2016 King was talking about collaborating with Straub on a third Jack Sawyer novel. But on a podcast last year Straub said that the novel was unlikely to ever materialize. In the last season of “Stranger Things,” a character reads “The Talisman.”

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While never as ubiquitous or publicly embraced as King, Straub was still a very popular author and a huge influence to writers everywhere, as is evidenced by the outpouring of grief on Twitter, many by authors who, like Straub, shared the same fantasy/horror space (folks like Chuck Wendig, Christopher Golden, Daniel Kraus, Paul Tremblay, Jeff VanderMeer and Gaiman).

Straub is survived by his daughter, his wife, a son, Benjamin, and three grandchildren.