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Sci-Fi Author of Best Seller ‘Dune’ Dead at 65

February 12, 1986 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Science-fiction writer Frank Herbert, whose best-selling ″Dune″ told of a harsh desert planet and its people, the intrigues of an interplanetary empire, and a mysterious spice that made a young duke able to see the future, has died at the age of 65.

Herbert, of Mercer Island, Wash., died Tuesday at University of Wisconsin Hospital of a blood clot near his lungs while recuperating from cancer surgery, said hospital spokeswoman Christine Chantry.

He had been working with his son, Brian, on the seventh novel in his ″Dune″ series and several other projects at the time of his death, said Kirby McCauley, Herbert’s literary agent in New York.

’It came as a shock to me,″ McCauley said. ″I thought he was on the mend.″

″Dune,″ Herbert’s best-known novel, has been translated into 14 languages and has sold more than 12 million copies since it was published in 1965. It was the first book in what began as a trilogy and grew to six novels, and became a cult favorite.

″Dune,″ another name for the fictional planet Arrakis, is the focus of galactic battle and intrigue because it is the source of a hallucinogenic spice, produced by a giant desert worm, that prolongs life and is essential to space navigation. The spice made the young duke Paul Atreides able to see the future.

Critic John Clute wrote in The Washington Post that Herbert’s ″adroit mix of religion, ecology, space opera, Arabs, giant worms, longevity drugs, politics, dynastic wars, extrasensory power and sex showed just how exhilarating the science fiction romance of conceptual breakthrough could be.″

His literary biographer, Timothy O’Reilly, wrote that all Herbert’s books explore the human ability to adapt to the unknown, and that he believed the essence of humanity is being able ″to dance on the edge of crisis.″

His first novel, ″Dragon in the Sea,″ was published in 1955. ″Dune″ was rejected by 20 publishers before one accepted it. In all, he wrote more than two dozen books.

Herbert’s latest ″Dune″ novel, ″Chapterhouse: Dune,″ hit the best- seller list as soon as it was published last year.

He also worked on two movies.

″Dune″ was made into a film released in late 1984. But despite high expectations, ornate sets and a big-budget cast that included rock star Sting, the movie drew mostly bad reviews.


Papers also had been signed Tuesday to make Herbert’s novel ″Green Brain″ into a movie, said his Beverly Hills, Calif., literary agent, Ned Brown.

Herbert, born in Tacoma, Wash., lied about his age in order to get his first newspaper job, on the Glendale Star in 1939, O’Reilly wrote.

Herbert also worked for the old Seattle Star, the Oregon Statesman, and was a writer and editor for the San Francisco Examiner’s ″California Living″ magazine for a decade.

He was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s education writer from 1969 to 1972, when he quit to write novels full time.

Jack Doughty, a friend of Herbert who worked with him at the Post- Intelligenc er and the San Francisco Examiner, said Herbert learned he had cancer late last year but ″just didn’t like to talk about it.″

Herbert had been going to the University of Wisconsin’s Hospital and Clinics for treatment, and returned there about two weeks ago, Doughty said. The medical center has an extensive cancer research facility.

Herbert is survived by his third wife, Theresa, a daughter and two sons.