''Requiem'' author Hubert Selby dies. The author of such gritty New York fiction as ''Last Exit to Brooklyn'' was 75

By Gary Susman
Updated April 27, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Hubert Selby Jr., whose gritty tales of New York City street life, such as ”Last Exit to Brooklyn” and ”Requiem for a Dream,” earned him fame late in life, died Monday at his home in Los Angeles at age 75, the Associated Press reports. Selby, who survived a bout of tuberculosis as a youth, struggled against respiratory illness for the rest of his life, and on Monday, he succumbed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, wife Suzanne told AP.

Born in Brooklyn, Selby chronicled the down-and-outers of the borough in books like ”Last Exit” (1964) and ”Requiem” (1978), writing in a hard-boiled prose style that critics likened to the works of William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller. Other novels included ”The Room” (1971), ”The Demon” (1976) and ”The Willow Tree” (1998). Describing his often violent characters, he told the New York Times in 1988: ”These are not literary characters; these are real people. I knew these people. How can anybody look inside themselves and be surprised at the hatred and violence in the world? It’s inside all of us.”

Selby didn’t earn a living from his writing until the last two decades of his life, as ”Last Exit” was adapted into a cult hit movie in 1989 that starred Jennifer Jason Leigh. A high school dropout and self-taught writer, Selby spent the last 20 years teaching writing to others as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. Selby collaborated with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky on the screenplay for his addiction drama ”Requiem,” which became an acclaimed indie hit in 2000. (Selby himself had battled addictions but had been sober since 1969, Suzanne Selby told AP.) He was working on additional stories and screenplays at the time of his death, she said.