'Ragtime' author E.L. Doctorow dies at age 84

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Beloved American Novelist E.L. Doctorow Dead at 84

(Reuters) - E.L. Doctorow, the author of popular novels grounded in American history including "Ragtime" and "Billy Bathgate," has died at age 84, his publisher said on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Random House Publishing Group gave no further details but the New York Times, citing the writer's son Richard, said Doctorow died in New York on Tuesday of complications from lung cancer.

"E.L. Doctorow was one of America's greatest novelists. His books taught me much, and he will be missed," President Barack Obama said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

Doctorow authored a dozen novels, short stories, a stage play and numerous articles and essays. His work, which positioned fictional characters in historical context, spanned 150 years of American history, from the civil war through modern time.

"Through books of great beauty and power, and characters I'll never forget, he showed us America's great flaws and its astonishing promise, and our own," Kate Medina, Doctorow's editor at Random House, said in a statement.

SEE: E.L. Doctorow's life in photos:

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'Ragtime' author E.L. Doctorow dies at age 84
FILE - In this April 27, 2004 file photo, author E.L. Doctorow smiles during an interview in his office at New York University. Doctorow will be honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington made the announcement Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
E.L. Doctorow speaks at the National Book Critics Circle awards ceremony in New York after his book "The March" won the NBCC prize for fiction Friday March 3, 2006. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
National Book Critics Circle, or NBCC, award winners Francine du Plessix Gray, left, Kai Bird, second from left, E.L. Doctorow, center, Martin J. Sherwin, second from right, and William Logan pose for a photograph during a reception following the NBCC awards ceremony in New York Friday March 3, 2006. Gray's "Them: A Memoir of Parents" won the prize for autobiography, Bird and Sherwin's "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" won the prize for biography, Doctorow's "The March" won the prize for fiction and Logan's "The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin" won the prize for criticism. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2005 file photo, National Book Award finalist E.L. Doctorow poses for photos before the award ceremonies in New York. According to his son Richard Doctorow, the "Ragtime" author died Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in a New York hospital from complications related to lung cancer. He was 84. Doctorow reimagined the American past and applied its lessons to the present and future. Published in 1975, "Ragtime" was later made into a film featuring James Cagney and a Broadway musical. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, File)
Author E.L. Doctorow discusses his latest novel, “The Waterworks,” on Bookworm, a literary book review program on station KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., June 24, 1994. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)
Author E. L. Doctorow admires a hand-carved loon presented to him at a party in New York on Sept. 25, 1980, while Bob Fosse looks on. Doctorow, author of best seller “Ragtime,” has a new novel which will be on the best seller list next week called "Loon Lake.” (AP Photo/Elizabeth Richter)
Panel member, author E.L. Doctorow, speaks at the Pen Congress at the St. Moritz Hotel in New York, Jan. 13, 1986. (AP Photo/Joel Landau)
Authors E.L. Doctorow, left, and Barry Lopez pose with their American Book Awards, Nov. 17, 1986 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Doctorow was honored for "World?s Fair," his recreation of a child's life during the Great Depression. Lopez won for "Arctic Dreams," an account of his travels in the Arctic Circle. (AP Photo/Susan Ragan)
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Doctorow was born in New York in 1931 and named after American writer Edgar Allen Poe.

During his long career he was awarded the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Awards and two PEN Faulkner Awards, among other honors.

He did not make his achievements seem easy.

"I don't think anything I've written has been done in under six or eight drafts," he told the Paris Review.

"Usually it takes me a few years to write a book. 'World's Fair' was an exception. It seemed to be a particularly fluent book as it came. I did it in seven months. I think what happened in that case is that God gave me a bonus book."

"World's Fair", a novel of a young boy's life in 1930s New York, won the National Book Award for fiction in 1986.

Doctorow attended Kenyon College in Ohio and did postgraduate study at Columbia University.

He spent two years in the U.S. Army, serving in Germany beginning in 1954.

After returning home, he worked at Columbia Pictures before moving to Random House, where he was named editor in chief of Dial Press in 1964. He published works by Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and others, the publishing house said.

"Edgar Doctorow was one of the great creative minds of our time," Gina Centrello, president and publisher of Random House, said. "He was sharp and funny, vocal and opinionated, and he inspired readers with every book, every story, and every essay."

Doctorow is survived by his wife, son, two daughters and four grandchildren, the New York Times reported. (Reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington and Dan Whitcomb and Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Beech and Edmund Klamann)

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