Authors Still Writing Well Into Advanced Age

Science Fiction writer Jack Williamson will soon be 97, and has published novels and stories very recently. FTR, his first story was published in 1926.

Who else is still writing and publishing at or near that age (say 80 and older)? For the purposes of this thread, they must have published in the last three years (give or take a month or three).

Sir Rhosis

P. S. For historical context, you may name deceased writers who continued to write despite advanced years.

Can composers be included? Elliot Carter is 96, and still very much active.

I think Ray Bradbury is really getting up there but still writing.

Sure – writers (fiction, nonfiction), composers, musicians. There’s already one going for actors.

Sir Rhosis

I think Bradbury is 84, maybe 85 this year (seems I remember he was born in 1920).

Oh, Frederik Pohl is 85 and still writing. Has looked like “death warmed over” since he was about 50; smokes like a damn chimney, too, when I’ve seen him in interviews.

Sir Rhosis

Saul Bellow turns 90 this year, and he seems to still be active.

In terms of sheer quality, it would be hard to be Philip Roth among living authors.

A personal fave was Robertson Davies, who wrote into his 80’s before he died.

According to Wikipedia, Arthur C. Clarke is 87 and co-authored a book that was published last year.

Dick Francis is still writing at 80+ years of age. Although, as I understand it, there is some question since the death of his wife as to whether he really wrote the novels himself.

But I still like’em a lot.

Andre Norton is 93 and published five books (four with co-authors) in 2002.

Maybe Fenris can help me out, but I remember a quote by Bob Heinlein, where he’s telling a story about how someone said to him that there are no retired writers. There are retired postmen, doctors, engineers, lawyers, but not writers. The conclusion is that people who write for a living don’t do it because they want the money or fame or attention. They do it because they have to. They simply can’t stop.
Which explains Stephen King.

^^^Conversation between RAH and Anthony Boucher.

Sir Rhosis

There are a million writers who retired because they wanted to, a million writers who retired because they no longer had anything to say, a million writers who retired because they couldn’t sell any more, a million writers who retired because of ill health, a million… You get the point.

I won’t go so far as to say that any aphorism of Heinlein’s is sure to apply to him and only coincidentally to the rest of the world, but it’s a good first approximation.

Anyway, baseball writer Roger Angell is over 80. There was just an article in Writer magazine by Hervie Haufler, who’s 85 and just had a book he wrote in retirement published. Nelson Bond, a science fiction writer as old as Jack Williamson, started writing again after he was named Author Emeritus by SFWA and reunited with his sf friends, including Williamson. Jacques Barzun, the noted scholar, published From Dawn to Decadence in 2001 at the age of 94 and I believe he’s still around and working. Gore Vidal will be 80 this year and so will his nemesis William F. Buckley. Carl Reiner, who has written a number of books in addition to all those movies and tv shows, the most recent in 2003, will be 83. Madeleine L’Engle is 86.

In the online Guinness Book of World Records, under “World’s Oldest Practicing Playwright” you will find George Bernard Shaw’s picture and the following text:

Shaw died of complications resulting from a cycling accident.

Since his youngest child is four years old, that would seem to be an understatement.

Vonnegut is 82 and, though officially retired, has released a book and numerous articles in the past three years.

Gore Vidal is 79 and has released several books in the past three years in spite of a debilitating leg problem and the death of (his partner of 50 years) Howard Austen.

I thought Hugh B. Cave (pulp horror author) was still around, but a web search reveals that he died six months ago. He was born in 1910 and kept publishing into 2003.

Add Jack Vance to the list - born 1916, “Lurulu” just published last month.

They’re both dead now, but Bessie & Sadie Delany were both well over 100 when their memoirs, Having Our Say, was published. (I don’t know how much of the actual writing they did, but a sequel, On My Own at 107, was published by Sadie when she was actually 108 (she lived to be 110).

At 74 he’s a few years too young to be on your list, but I’ll mention him anyway: Tom Wolfe is the author of one of the bestselling books in the country at the moment and it’s written from the perspective of a teenaged 21st century girl.

Jorge Luis Borges was productive as a writer and lecturer at the time of his death even though he was almost 87 and had been totally blind for decades.

One of my favorites is Henry Miller, who lived to be 89. He was a prodigious writer all his life, letters mostly, and he wrote in one form or another (magazine, book, letters) right up till the end.

Oddly, I enjoyed him more for *the way * he wrote than for what he wrote.

P.G. Wodehouse lived to the age of 94 and was writing Jeeves and Wooster stories practically to the end.
And, as I think I proved fairly well here, Jeeves and Wooster seem to have the distinction of being the fictional characters written about by the original author over the longest period: 58 years, from 1916 to 1974. (Wodehouse died in early '75.)