LONDON: Charles Webb, a lifelong non-conformist whose debut novel "The Graduate" was a deadpan satire of his college education and wealthy background adapted into the classic film of the same name, has died. He was 81.
Webb died on June 16 in Eastbourne, England, of a blood condition, said his friend Jack Malvern, a Times of London journalist to whom Webb's final book was dedicated. Webb was only 24 when his most famous book was published, in 1963.
The sparely written narrative was based closely on his years growing up comfortably in Southern California, his studies in history and literature at Williams College in Massachusetts and his disorienting return home.
Webb's fictional counterpart, Benjamin Braddock, challenges the materialism of his parents, scorns the value of his schooling and has an affair with Mrs.
Robinson, wife of his father's business partner and mother of the young woman with whom he falls in love, Elaine Robinson. "I got interested in the wife of a good friend of my parents and ...(realized) it might be better to write about it than to do it," Webb told the online publication Thoughtcat in 2006.
His novel initially sold around 20,000 copies and was labeled a fictional failure by New York Times critic Orville Prescott. But it did appeal to Hollywood producer Lawrence Turman and the film company Embassy Pictures.
In 1964, a brief item in The New York Times noted that Embassy had brought in Broadway director Mike Nichols, who had yet to make his first movie, to work on the screen version of "The Graduate".
The 1967 movie became a touchstone for the decade's rebellion even though Webb's story was set in an earlier era - never referring to Vietnam or civil rights. Nichols' film, starring a then-little-known Dustin Hoffman as Braddock and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson, was an immediate sensation.
Nichols won an Academy Award, Hoffman became an overnight star and the film is often ranked among the greatest, most quoted and talked about of all time. Webb's book went on to sell more than a 1 million copies, but he hardly benefited from the film, for which he received just USD 20,000.