MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Author Jon Hassler, a popular Minnesota author and former instructor of Brainerd Community College has died. He was 74.
Hassler chronicled small-town life in "Staggerford," "The Love Hunter" and other novels, and worked at BCC, now Central Lakes College, from 1968 to 1980.
Hassler, who suffered from a longtime neurological disorder, died early Thursday at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, said family friend Nick Hayes. Hassler had been in home hospice care since the holidays and entered the hospital on Monday, Hayes said.
Despite his deteriorating health, Hassler continued work on a book, "Jay O'Malley," up until his death, Hayes said.
"He had one more to go, at least," Hayes said.
In a 1995 interview, Hassler told The Associated Press that he liked writing about misfits. "You can't write a novel about somebody who's perfectly happy," he said.
Hassler was born in Minneapolis in March 30, 1933, and grew up in the small north-central Minnesota town of Staples, where his father owned a grocery store.
He graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville in 1955 before receiving a master's from the University of North Dakota. He spent years teaching before launching his writing career at age 37.
He didn't publish his first novel, "Staggerford," a semi-autobiographical story about a high school teacher in a small town, until seven years later.
The New York Times, in an otherwise tepid review of Hassler's 1998 book "The Dean's List," called him "Minnesota's most engaging cultural export" whose novels were filled with local color that "encompasses a wide spectrum of human nature, deftly navigating the rich territory between sentiment and satire."
Hassler taught at various schools in Minnesota, including Bemidji State University and Brainerd Community College. He set his eighth novel, "Rookery Blues," at Rookery State College in northern Minnesota and populated it with oddball academics.
He was a writer in residence at St. John's for 17 years before retiring in 1997.
"There is no doubt that Jon was one of this country's great storytellers - a Minnesota voice whose plots and people, while they came to us from small and out-of-the-way places, spoke to all of us, whatever our life experiences," St. John's said in a statement.
Hassler's other works include "Simon's Night," in 1979; "The Love Hunter, 1981; "A Green Journey," 1986; "Grand Opening," 1987; "North of Hope," 1990; and "Dear James," 1993.
Hassler told the AP that writing a novel "just fit my temperament."
"For one thing, you only have to write an ending every two years. For another thing, I like delving into things."
Funeral arrangements were pending.
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