Robert James Waller, "whose gauzy, romantic novel The Bridges of Madison County became a runaway bestseller on its publication in 1992 and the basis of a popular film," died March 10, the New York Times reported. He was 77.
The Bridges of Madison County "leapt to the top of the bestseller lists and stayed there, eventually outselling Gone With the Wind," the Times noted, adding that with the novel "still riding high, Mr. Waller recorded an album, 'The Ballads of Madison County,' and in 10 days wrote his second novel, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, about the love affair between an economics professor and a colleague's wife. With a first printing of a million copies, it, too, shot to the top of the bestseller lists."
Waller's other books include Puerto Vallarta Squeeze: The Run for el Norte; Border Music; Just Beyond the Firelight: Stories & Essays; One Good Road Is Enough and The Long Night of Winchell Dear. In 2002, he revisited the scene of his first novel in A Thousand Country Roads: An Epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County, followed by High Plains Tango (2005), in which he "passed the generational baton to Kincaid's son, a master carpenter who battles to stop development on the site of an Indian burial ground in South Dakota," the Times reported.
Noting that "the romantic flame ignited by The Bridges of Madison County was slow to die," the Times wrote that in 2005 Waller told Book Page: "I receive letters each week from people who have read it and are moved by the story. At one time, I received 50 to 100 letters per week. Now it's more on the order of five. The last I knew, 350 marriage ceremonies had been celebrated at Roseman Bridge."
Poet and former bookstore owner William John Harris, Jr., known in the book world as John Harris, died on March 8. He was 90.
Harris was a co-founder of the Venice Poetry Workshop in 1969, an early participant in the Beyond Baroque literary arts center, author of two poetry collections--Where Love Is (1969) and Against the Day of the Dead (1977)--and was included in various journals and anthologies, including Venice Thirteen (1971). In the 1970s and '80s, he owned Papa Bach Paperbacks in West Los Angeles and edited and published Bachy, a quarterly journal of poetry and short stories.