Originally published in Westchester Magazine.
By Julianne Cuba
July 23, 2015
The award-winning author wrote Ragtime, the book that made him famous, from his home in Southern Westchester.
E.L. Doctorow, the famous American novelist whose award-winning 1975 novel Ragtime was both centered around and written in New Rochelle, died on Tuesday at the age of 84. His son, Richard, told The New York Times that the cause was complications from lung cancer.
Doctorow, a long-time New Rochelle resident, was known for his contemporary spins on culture and history. Ragtime, set in pre-World War I in the New York City area, revolved around a wealthy family living on Broadview Avenue in New Rochelle. The book was later turned into a movie and Broadway musical.
Like Ragtime, many of Doctorow’s other 12 novels used real historical characters and context to create alternative, often eccentric narratives. His other titles include Billy Bathgate, The March, and World’s Fair.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle said, “He is universally acknowledged as one of the great American novelists, with works that are unchallenged classics and will almost surely be read for decades, if not centuries, to come.”
Mayor Bramson acknowledged New Rochelle’s intimate connection with the author, explaining that until just a few years ago, Doctorow and his wife, Helen, had lived on the very street made famous by Ragtime.
“To his neighbors, he was Ed, not E.L. And he was notable not just for his talent, but for his kindness — unassuming in his bearing, unfailingly polite, with no sign of the frosty arrogance that sometimes afflicts the famous,” the mayor wrote.