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Comic Writer and Aide to Trotsky Dies

October 30, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Bernard Wolfe, a one-time bodyguard to Leon Trotsky who later became a comedic novelist after learning the writer’s craft by penning pornography under deadline pressure, has died of a heart attack.

Wolfe, 70, died Sunday at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital. He had been taken there Friday from his Bell Canyon home.

After graduating in 1936 from Yale, Wolfe went to Mexico and worked as secretary and bodyguard to Trotsky, the exiled Bolshevik leader. The events leading to Trotsky’s 1940 assassination by agents of Joseph Stalin formed the basis for Wolfe’s novel, ″The Great Prince Died,″ published in 1959.

In the book, Wolfe renamed Trotsky ″Victor Rostov″ and placed him in a fortress near Mexico City where police guarded him and his followers.

Wolfe painted a portrait of a man haunted more by the guilt he carried for participating in the horrors of Stalinism than the threat of assassination.

Before the assassination, Wolfe left Trotsky’s employ to join the Merchant Marine and then became editor of Mechanix Illustrated.

His work ranged from academia to pornography, and he credited his pornographic efforts with teaching him to write to specified lengths while facing deadlines.

″In 11 months I wrote 11 novels and I acquired the work discipline of a professional writer, capable of a solid daily output,″ he once said.

He recalled in his ″Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer″ his early years as an employee of a rare New York book dealer who engaged in sub rosa sales of leather-bound volumes of literary filth.

In 1946, with Mezz Mezzrow, Wolfe wrote ″Really the Blues,″ a comedic, satirical biography of a jazzman-con man. He stuck with comedic staire through most of his other novels and short stories.

″Limbo,″ a science fiction work, was published in 1952 and acclaimed as one of the first postwar anti-war, anti-armaments novels.

Wolfe also taught writing at the University of California at Los Angeles while working on scripts for 20th Century-Fox and Universal-Internationa l.

He is survived by his wife, former film actress Delores Michaels, and twin daughters, Jordan and Miranda.

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