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Joseph Heller,

Age: 76

surreal novelist whose 1961 classic Catch-22 remains a seminal antiwar novel. More than 10 million copies of the book have been sold in the United States alone, and much of its popularity was sparked by word-of-mouth. Heller, known for his black humor and mordant wit, based the book on his own experiences as a bombardier in the Mediterranean during WWII. The term “catch-22,” meaning, “any illogical or paradoxical problem or situation,” has become part of the American vernacular. His other books include Something Happened and Good as Gold. As a struggling writer, Heller also tried his hand at writing screenplays and plays. His film credits include the spoofs Casino Royale and Dirty Dingus Magee. Mike Nichols directed the film adaptation of Catch-22. In 1994 Heller published Closing Time, a sequel to Catch-22. Heller died of a heart attack.

Died: East Hampton, N.Y., December 12, 1999

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