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Jaws author Peter Benchley dead

Benchley, who gave to the world tales of terror on, in and under the ocean passed away yesterday.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 16:49 IST
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Peter Benchley, the author of the bestseller Jaws which was made into a blockbuster movie that kept beachgoers out of the water for years, died at his home at age 65, according to family sources.

Benchley, well-known for other water-based suspense fiction including The Deep" and The Island, both of which also spawned films, died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis, his son-in-law Chris Turner told Reuters yesterday.

Benchley was diagnosed with the condition in the fall of 2005 and his health had been deteriorating, Turner said.

"It was peaceful," he said, adding that the writer's wife Wendy and other family members were by his side at their Princeton, New Jersey home.

In addition to the fame he achieved as a novelist, Benchley was a reporter for the Washington Post and speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson during his presidency.

He was the grandson of writer and humorist Robert Benchley, a member of the renowned Algonquin Round Table which included a host of sophisticated writers and personalities like Dorothy Parker, George S Kaufman and Robert Sherwood.

But it was with his 1974 novel Jaws, about a series of gruesome shark attacks that cause panic in a placid New England beach resort, that Benchley won the kind of fame rarely accorded any writer of popular fiction. He even had a cameo in the 1975 Steven Spielberg film, playing a reporter.

The film is widely considered to be the first "summer blockbuster," spawning a tradition of releasing major action films during the lucrative summer season.

Benchley pursued his lifelong fascination with the sea and its potential terrors writing The Deep, about divers looking for treasure, and The Island, in which sailors are terrorized by modern-day pirates. Among his latest books was Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea, published last year.

"Everything I've written is based on something that has happened to me or something that I know a great deal about," Benchley said in an interview on his Web site.

"In Jaws I knew a great deal about sharks. In The Deep I had been lucky enough to learn about Bermuda and to meet Teddy Tucker, a great Bermudan treasure diver, while doing a story for the National Geographic, and I learned about shipwrecks in Bermuda."

In addition to his wife, Benchley is survived by two daughters.

First Published: Feb 14, 2006 21:47 IST