The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Styron, author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, has died. He was 81. Styron’s daughter, Alexandra, said the author died of pneumonia at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in Massachusetts, on Wednesday. Styron, who had homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Connecticut, has been in failing health for a long time. Styron was a Virginia native, whose fascinations with race, class and personal guilt led to such tormented narratives as Lie Down in Darkness and The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the Pulitzer Prize despite protests that the book was racist and inaccurate.
A lifelong liberal, Styron was involved in many public causes, from supporting a Connecticut teacher suspended for refusing to say the oath of allegiance, to advocating human rights for Jews in the Soviet Union. In the 90s, he was one of a group of authors and historians who successfully opposed plans for a Disney theme park near the Manassas National Battlefield in northern Virginia.
Styron found writing an increasing struggle in his latter years. He was reportedly working on a military novel, yet published no full-length work of fiction after Sophie’s Choice, which came out in 1979. He remained well-connected, however, socialising with President Clinton in Martha’s Vineyard, and joining Arthur Miller and Gabriel Garcia Marquez on a delegation that met with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2000.