Other Notable Deaths


November 10, 2005

John Fowles, 79, the British writer whose teasing, multilayered fiction explored the tensions between free will and the constraints of society, even as it played with traditional novelistic conventions and challenged readers to find their own interpretations, died Saturday at his home in Lyme Regis, England.

The death was announced by his publisher, Random House UK. No cause was given, but Random House said Mr. Fowles, who suffered a stroke in the late 1980s and had heart problems, had been ill for some time.

Mr. Fowles' originality, versatility and skill were nowhere more evident than in his most celebrated novels, among them The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman. In the latter, he combined the melodrama of a 19th-century Victorian novel with the sensibility of a 20th-century postmodern narrator, offering his readers two alternative endings from which to choose and at one point boldly inserting himself into the book as a character who accompanies the hero on a train to London.

In The Collector, Mr. Fowles painted an eerily plausible portrait of a psychopath who kidnaps a young woman out of what he imagines is love, telling the story from the two characters' opposing points of view until, at the end, the narratives converge with a shocking immediacy.

And in The Magus, the story of a young Englishman who gets caught up in the frightening dramatic fantasies of a strangely powerful man on an Aegean island, he again wrote an ending of self-conscious ambiguity, leaving the hero's future an open puzzle that readers are challenged to solve for themselves.

In the United States, his books became mainstays of college literature courses while achieving that rare combination: admiring reviews from serious-minded critics and best-selling sales in the stores.

Mr. Fowles led a quiet, even reclusive life in Lyme Regis, in an old Dorset house that overlooks the English Channel, throwing himself into his writing and the natural world and developing a reputation as a bit of a grouch, a writer who shunned the public eye and did not look kindly on the tendency of readers to track him down and invite him for a drink.

At the height of his success in the 1960s and '70s, Mr. Fowles was regarded by many as the English-speaking world's greatest contemporary writer and its first postmodern novelist, but his work became less fashionable in his later years.

John E. Rice, 53, who starred with his twin in campy real estate infomercials, a game show and sitcom, died Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla., as he was about to undergo surgery for a broken leg a day after a fall.

At 2 feet 10 inches tall, the brothers became millionaires doing infomercials, acting in film and on television and giving motivational speeches. Given up for adoption shortly after birth, they got their start in high school selling cleaning and personal-care products door to door.

In their infomercials, they dressed alike in outfits that changed frequently, selling get-rich-quick real estate strategies. They played on their status, offering "twin DVDs" as a free gift for attending seminars. They named their motivational company Think Big.

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