Charles Portis, the Arkansas novelist who wrote the iconic 1968 best seller True Grit, died Monday in Little Rock at age 86.
His brother, Jonathan Portis, reported the cause of death as complications from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia first diagnosed in 2012. Born in El Dorado and raised in Hamburg and Mount Holly, Portis was a journalist before achieving international renown as an author.
He started at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis before stints at the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and the New York Herald Tribune, where he once held Karl Marx’s old job as that paper’s London bureau chief.
True Grit was Portis’ second novel (spawning two highly regarded film adaptations) and afforded him almost instant celebrity, which he famously begrudged throughout his life. Jay Jennings, former editor of the Oxford American in Little Rock and close friend of the author, told AY Magazine in May 2018 that Portis was more private than reclusive:
“It’s a little bit of a myth,” Jennings says of Portis’ reputation. “It’s true he didn’t want to do any interviews, which is a little ironic because he was a journalist… He just wants to have his work read and judged off of the work, not all the other trappings that seem to go along with being a writer. He cares about having his work read. That’s important to him.”
READ MORE: True Grit and the Man Who Wrote It