Colleen McCullough, a highly regarded author of 25 novels, died on Thursday, January 29, 2015, at a Norfolk Island, Australia hospital. McCullough had been in failing health, and according to reports, the cause of death was kidney failure. She is survived by her husband, Ric Robinson, and several stepchildren.
Prior to becoming an author, Colleen McCullough was a neurophysiological researcher at Yale School of Medicine. She wrote in her spare time, rising to international attention in 1977 with the publication of her second novel, The Thorn Birds. The book, an epic romantic saga set in Australia, sold more than 30 million copies and has never been out of print.
Critics did not speak kindly of The Thorn Birds, but the book went on to be made into a highly popular American mini-series. McCullough was outspoken about the criticism her book received and was noted for her strong opinions on many topics. Other work, including a series set in ancient Rome, was received more kindly. The Masters of Rome series was particularly noted for its exhaustive research.
Nearly everything about Ms. McCullough had unrestrained heft: her voice, her laugh, her frame, her opinions, the blizzard of cigarettes she smoked each day and, most conspicuously, her books. “The Thorn Birds” clocked in at 533 pages. Titles in her “Masters of Rome” series, a seven-volume cycle set in the ancient world, could run far longer: The inaugural entry, “The First Man in Rome” (1990), spanned 896 pages, some 100 of them devoted to a glossary.
Her profusion was matched by her speed. On a typical day, Ms. McCullough said, she might produce 15,000 words; on a very good day, 30,000. Her facility was all the more noteworthy in that she continued to use an electric typewriter well into the computer age.
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