W.P. Kinsella, Author of 'Shoeless Joe,' Dies at 81

Screengrab/Shaw TV Saskatoon
W.P. Kinsella

His baseball novel was adapted into the 1989 film 'Field of Dreams' starring Kevin Costner.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Canadian novelist W.P. Kinsella, who blended magical realism and baseball in the book that became the smash hit film Field of Dreams, has died. He was 81.

His literary agent Carolyn Swayze said in a statement that Kinsella's death on Friday in Hope, British Columbia, was doctor-assisted. No other details about his death were disclosed.

The author's best-known work, Shoeless Joe, a magic-realist novel about a farmer in Iowa who builds a baseball field on his property in hopes of drawing in his hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was adapted into a film in 1989. Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson, starred Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann and James Earl Jones.

Key turns of phrases in his book —"If you build it, they will come" and "Go the distance" — have taken their place in literature's lexicon.

Kinsella published almost 30 books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry and won the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest honors. The author frequently published short stories and novels on the topic of baseball during the course of his writing career, including 1986's Iowa Baseball Confederacy and 1991's Box Socials.

"Bill Kinsella and his wife Ann Knight were my first friends when I moved to White Rock [British Columbia] in 1984. They were incredibly kind and supportive over the years," Swayze said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "Bill persuaded me to become a literary agent in 1994 and to represent his work. He was a dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon, an irascible and difficult man. His fiction has made people laugh, cry and think for decades and will do so for decades to come. Not a week has passed in the last 22 years without receiving a note of appreciation for Bill's stories. His contribution to will endure."

Assisted deaths became legal in Canada in June.

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