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William Peter Blatty, Arab American Author of 'The Exorcist,' Dies at 89

posted on: Jan 13, 2017

William Peter Blatty stands in front of a film poster for The Exorcist. Image Credit: The Huffington Post

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Arab American author William Peter Blatty, who wrote the best-selling horror fiction novel, “The Exorcist” died in Bethesda, Maryland on Thursday at the age of 89. His wife Julie said he died from multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that weakens the bones.

Mr. Blatty’s most recognizable work, “The Exorcist,” is the story of a young girl possessed by the devil and the two priests who help her. Mr. Blatty wrote the screenplay for the film version of the book, which premiered in 1973 and earned the author an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. The film was the first horror movie nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards.

Before writing “The Exorcist,” Mr. Blatty was a comedy writer in Hollywood. He wrote the screenplays for many films, including “The Man from the Diners’ Club” (1963), “Promise Her Anything” (1965), and “The Great Bank Robbery” (1969). Blatty also wrote the screenplay for “The Ninth Configuration” based on his 1978 dark comedy novel.

In total, Mr. Blatty wrote 12 novels throughout his career, including his last piece, “The Exorcist for the 21st Century,” written in 2016. His life was spent switching between novels and screenplays that popularized stories of horror and theology.

Mr. Blatty was born to Catholic Lebanese immigrant parents in New York City. His father left their family when William was six years old, causing his mother to change their address 28 times as a result of evictions. Mr. Blatty’s mother, a devout Catholic, sold quince jelly on the streets to give her son whatever he could to obtain a quality education.

After graduating from Georgetown University in 1950, Mr. Blatty served in the Air Force, and then moved on to the United States Information Agency in Beirut. When he returned to the States, he pursued a writing career. He had already published his first book, a humorous memoir, titled “Which Way to Mecca, Jack?” when he quit his job to begin writing full-time.

The film and publication industries have lost an exceptionally gifted writer this week. The Arab American community mourns the loss Mr. Blatty and his continued contributions to American entertainment.