Russell Banks, author of ‘Cloudsplitter’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter,’ has died at the age of 82.

NEW YORK (AP) — Russell Banks, an award-winning fiction writer who set works like “Affliction” and “The Sweet Hereafter” in his native Northeast and portrayed the hopes and disappointments of everyone from current blue-collar workers to radical abolitionist John Brown, has died. He was 82.

Banks, a retired Princeton University professor, died Saturday in upstate New York, according to his editor, Dan Halpern. Banks was being treated for cancer, according to Halpern.

Joyce Carol Oates, who described Banks as a “great American writer” and “dear friend of so many” on Twitter, said he died quietly at home.

“I adored Russell and his enormous talent and noble heart,” Oates added. “‘Cloudsplitter’ was his masterwork, but all of his work is outstanding.”

Banks, who was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, was a self-styled heir of 19th-century writers like as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman, striving to great art and a deep understanding of the American spirit. He was a plumber’s son who frequently wrote about working-class families and those who perished attempting to escape.

Banks spent part of the year in Florida and had a residence in Jamaica for a period, but he was primarily a Northerner with an old Puritan sense of responsibility. Snow fell frequently in his novels, whether on the upstate New York village torn apart by a bus disaster in “The Sweet Hereafter” or on the desperate, divorced New Hampshire cop undone by his obsessive paranoia in “The Sweet Hereafter.”

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In Banks’ seminal work “Continental Drift,” published in 1985, oil burner repairman Bob Dubois left his home state of New Hampshire to start a business with his affluent brother in Florida, only to discover that his brother’s existence was as empty as his own.

“Bob knew his brother’s strut and brag were empty from the outset, and in a deep, barely conscious manner, he forgave him his strut and brag because he knew they were empty. But he never expected it to come to this, to nothing “Banks penned.

Cloudsplitter” was his most ambitious novel, a 750-page account of John Brown and his unlikely attempt to end slavery in the United States.

The narrative predates Banks, but the idea was literally close to home. Banks resided near Brown’s burial site in North Elba, New York, and he passed by often enough that Brown “became a kind of ghostly apparition,” the author told the Associated Press in 1998.

“Cloudsplitter” feels like a forerunner to Banks’ more recent works, with references to Hawthorne and other early influences. According to son Owen Brown, John Brown was a troubled Old World man whose determination to free the slaves and punish the enslavers caused his face to blaze like a revivalist preacher’s.

“I was a boy; I was terrified by my father’s face,” the narrator of Banks’ story adds. “I recall father looking us in the eyes and searing us with his gaze as he told us to hear him immediately. He had resolved to put his sins of pride and vanity behind him for good. And he planned to wage war against slavery from here. He claimed that the moment had come for him to join.

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