Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt dead at 78

07/19/2009 09:57 PM
Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt, the Irish-American memoirist whose impoverished childhood in 1930s Ireland darkly colored his best-seller "Angela's Ashes," which won him a Pulitzer prize, has died aged 78.

The 78-year-old Irish-American writer was suffering from meningitis and had recently been treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“Angela’s Ashes” rose to No. 1 on the New York Times non- fiction best-seller list and was named best nonfiction book of 1996 by Time and Newsweek. Published in 25 languages and in 30 countries, the book has sold more than 5 million copies, according to its publisher Simon & Schuster. The 1997 Pulitzer for biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award were among its many honors. It was turned into a 1999 film.

McCourt was born in New York in 1930 to Irish immigrant parents, but his alcoholic father couldn't make a go of it in the Depression. The family returned to Ireland and settled in a Dickensian neighborhood of Limerick. Unable to keep a job, his father drank the dole money, leaving Frank's mother livid and the children hungry. (In a family of seven children, three died.) McCourt, at 19, returned to New York and joined the army. Before the publication of "Angela’s Ashes" in 1996, McCourt was a New York high school teacher for 30 years.

"'Tis," McCourt's second book, picks up where the first left off as he arrived back in the United States at age 19. McCourt's 2005 "Teacher Man" chronicled his 27-year career in New York's school system.

McCourt is survived by his third wife, Ellen, and a daughter from his first marriage, Maggie, as well as three brothers, Alphie, Michael and Malachy, an actor who wrote his own memoir, A Monk Swimming. Frank and Malachy also wrote and performed a musical revue, A Couple of Blaguards.

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