Winston Groom, a Southern author who discovered a measure of belated celeb when his 1986 novel, “Forrest Gump,” was made into the 1994 Oscar-winning film starring Tom Hanks, died on Thursday at his residence in Fairhope, Ala. He was 77.
He died in his sleep, probably from a coronary heart assault, his stepson Frederick Helmsing mentioned.
Mr. Groom had printed three well-regarded novels and a nonfiction finalist for a Pulitzer Prize when he wrote the e-book that will outline him as a author and switch the Gumpian phrase “life is like a box of chocolates” right into a modern-day proverb.
“Forrest Gump” tells the picaresque adventures of an Alabama man who stumbles via modern American historical past with an IQ of 70 and a headful of folksy knowledge. The novel offered respectably and earned good critiques. The novelist and critic Jonathan Baumbach describe it in The New York Instances E book Overview as “a kind of defanged ‘Candide,’ an unabrasive satire of the idiocy of life in our time.”
However when “Gump” was made into a movie by Paramount Photos, it turned a cultural phenomenon. Forrest Gump turned, like Huck Finn and Atticus Finch, to call two different fictional Southerners, a beloved American character. His koan-like sayings — “stupid is as stupid does” and the road about goodies (neither of which appeared as such within the novel) — entered the lexicon as “Gumpisms.”
The film’s recognition even led to the founding of a nationwide seafood restaurant chain, Bubba Gump Shrimp, impressed by a personality who hopes to begin a shrimping enterprise.
The movie grossed greater than $670 million globally on the field workplace, earned 13 Academy Award nominations and received six Oscars, together with for finest image.
The publicity made Mr. Groom’s novel a finest vendor lengthy after the very fact, and it prompted him to put in writing a sequel, “Gump & Co.,” printed the following yr.
“Forrest Gump’s” belated industrial success left him each delighted and bemused.
“Where were you eight years ago?” he told The Times in a 1994 profile. “It’s the same damn book.”
Winston Francis Groom Jr. was born on March 23, 1943, in Washington, the one baby of Winston Sr. and Ruth (Knudsen) Groom. His father was a lawyer for the Pentagon who returned to Cellular, Ala., to apply legislation. His mom taught English at school and impressed Winston’s love of literature.
After attending the College of Alabama, the place he edited humor and literary magazines, Mr. Groom joined the Military in 1965 as a second lieutenant within the infantry and was shipped out to Vietnam the next yr. Battle was a formative expertise, and one that will discover its means into a lot of his writing. (Forrest was a Vietnam vet.)
“I’d never done anything worth a hoot in my life except that,” Mr. Groom mentioned in a C-SPAN interview, referring to his army expertise. “I mean, it’s something that was very impressed on me. To write about men in war.”
On his discharge he spent practically a decade as a reporter for the now-closed Washington Star earlier than quitting to pursue a literary profession in New York. He palled round with writers like Irwin Shaw, Joseph Heller and Willie Morris, hewing to the custom of the Southern raconteur and man of letters. At 6-foot-6, brimming with charisma and wild tales, Mr. Groom match the half imposingly. Like his father, he would return to Alabama to reside.
Mr. Groom was married 3 times. Along with his stepson, he’s survived by his spouse, Susan Groom; a daughter, Carolina Groom; and two different stepchildren, Man Helmsing and Margaret Browning.
“‘Forrest Gump’ is not the only reason to celebrate him as a great writer,” P.J. O’Rourke, the political satirist and journalist who knew Mr. Groom for many years, wrote in an e mail.
In Mr. O’Rourke’s view, Mr. Groom’s debut novel, “Better Times Than These” (1978), “was the best novel written about the Vietnam War.”
“And this is not even to mention Winston’s extraordinary historical and nonfiction works,” he added.
These books embrace the Pulitzer Prize finalist (for normal nonfiction), “Conversations With the Enemy” (1983), an account of a Vietnam-era prisoner of battle written with Duncan Spencer; “Shrouds of Glory” (1995), concerning the Civil Battle; and “Patriotic Fire” (2006), concerning the Battle of New Orleans.
At his demise, Mr. Groom was awaiting the publication of “The Patriots,” a mixed biography of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; it’s to be printed in November by Nationwide Geographic.
His first spouse, Baba Groom, whom he met once they had been college students on the College of Alabama, mentioned he had been a born author. They remained shut after their divorce in 1984.
“He thought he’d be a lawyer,” she mentioned. “But it was way too dry for him.”