James Dickey, author of Deliverance, dies at 73
(JAN. 21, 1997)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- James Dickey, a poet who said he wrote prose just to pay the bills but achieved his greatest fame for the novel and Oscar-nominated movie Deliverance, has died at 73. Dickey, who was poet in residence at the University of South Carolina for almost 30 years, died Sunday of complications from lung disease. Dickey said the military -- he served in the Army Air Corps and then the Air Force in the 1940s and 1950s -- formed many of his values, chief among them, survival. Survival was a major theme of Deliverance, about a group of urban adventurers who take a canoe trip down a whitewater river in the Georgia wilderness and end up fighting for their lives. Dickey's writing often dealt with man and nature. He said people long to exchange their modern frustrations for a more primitive life that has "more of the truth in it." "I like the whole sense of reversion of the domestic animal to the wild state," he said during a 1994 interview. Deliverance, published in 1970, received the French Prix Medicis in 1971 and in 1972 was made into the movie starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds. Dickey also wrote the screenplay. His next novel, the little-noticed Alnilam, was published in 1987. To the White Sea, about a tailgunner shot down over Japan in the final days of World War II, was published in 1993. He said he only wrote novels to pay his bills, and instead wanted to be remembered for his more than 20 collections of poetry. One of his collections, Buckdancer's Choice, won the 1966 National Book Award. Dickey is survived by his wife, Deborah, two sons and a daughter. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.