AE Hotchner, author, playwright and friend of Hemingway, dies at 102

Hotch wrote 1966 memoir Papa Hemingway and was friends with Paul Newman but detected himself sued by Polanski

AE Hotchner, a well-traveled author and playwright who wrote a famous memoir of Ernest Hemingway, had business escapades with Paul Newman and find Steven Soderbergh film his book about his Depression-era childhood, died on Saturday. He was 102.

Hotchner died at his home in Westport, Connecticut, according to his son, Timothy Hotchner, who did not immediately know the cause of death.

Hotchner, known to friends as “Ed” or “Hotch”, was an impish St Louis native who read, wrote and hustled himself out of poverty and published more than a dozen books, befriend countless celebrities and ensure his play The White House performed at the real White House for President Bill Clinton.

He was a natural fit for Elaine’s, the former Manhattan nightspot for the famous and the near-famous, and contributed the text for Everyone Comes to Elaine’s, an illustrated history. Hotchner’s other works included the novel The Man Who Lived at the Ritz, bestselling biographies of Doris Day and Sophia Loren, and a musical, Let’ Em Rot! co-written with Cy Coleman.

In his 90 s, he completed an upbeat book of essays on ageing, OJ in the Morning, G& T at Night. When he was 100, he wrote the detective fiction The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom. At 101, he accommodated Hemingway’s The Old person and the Sea for the stage.

Hotchner in New York City in 2007. Photograph: Patrick McMullan/ Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

He was a memorable storyteller- sometimes too memorable. Hotchner wrote an article about Elaine’s for Vanity Fair that included an anecdote about director Roman Polanski making advances on a woman on the way to the funeral of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson’s adherents. Polanski sued Conde Nast for libel and in 2005 was awarded some $87,000, plus tribunal expenses, by a jury in London.

The son of a furrier who went violated during the Depression, Aaron Edward Hotchner was born in 1917 in St Louis, a city he would recollect with deep affection despite periods so dire he claimed to have eaten newspaper. Hotchner wrote about his youth in King of the Hill, published in 1972 and accommodated 20 years later into a Soderbergh film of the same name.

Clever and ascertained, Hotchner managed a scholarship to Washington University, where he and Tennessee Williams worked on the student magazine. Hotchner then joined the US air force, a hour he recalled good-naturedly in the memoir The Day I Fired Alan Ladd, and Other World War II Adventures.

After the war, Hotchner settled in New York, became an editor at Cosmopolitan, and worked on literary fiction. One submission was JD Salinger’s Needle On a Scratchy Phonograph Record, a tale the author gave to Hotchner under the condition that nothing- not a comma- be altered. The tale was printed intact, but Cosmopolitan altered the title to Blue Melody. Salinger never spoke to Hotchner again.

Around the same time, Hotchner lucked his route into literary history. Cosmopolitan wanted Hemingway to write an article about” The Future of Literature”, so sent Hotchner to Cuba to track him down. So began a friendship that lasted until Hemingway’s suicide in 1961. From Spain to Idaho, they hunted, drink and attended bullfights. They lived through Hemingway’s inspiring highs and fatal lows, chronicled by Hotchner in Papa Hemingway, which came out in 1966 and has been translated into more than 25 speeches.

Hemingway’s widow, Mary Hemingway, sued unsuccessfully to stop publication, alleging Hotchner had contravened the privacy of her husband and herself. She was reportedly upset he contradicted her contention that her husband accidentally shot himself. Critics, meanwhile, doubted the accuracy of the many long dialogues between Hotchner and Hemingway.

” Once you learn the rhythms of speech of a person, the actual words resonate with you ,” Hotchner said in 2005.” I can hear him right now:’ How do you like it now, gentlemen ?’ Things he said. You’re sort of born with that I guess, a kind of tape that runs through your head .”

Their relationship was also professional. Hotchner often served as Hemingway’s agent, helped edit his bullfighting book The Dangerous Summer and helped come up with the title for the posthumous release of Hemingway’s memoir about Paris, A Moveable Feast.

Hotchner at home in Westport, Connecticut in January 2019. Photograph: Kathy Willens/ AP

In the 1950 s and early 60 s he adapted several Hemingway stories for television, including The Battler, which led to his first meeting with Newman. James Dean had agreed to star as the titular faded ex-boxer but Newman took the role after Dean died. Newman and Hotchner became friends, pranksters, fishing buddies, neighbours and business partners. When the actor wanted to sell his homemade salad dressing at some local stores, he called on “Hotch” to help out.

” That was just a joke ,” Hotchner said.” It was something on the fly.’ Let’s put up $ 40,000 and we’ll be businessmen.'”

Their caper turned into the multimillion-dollar Newman’s Own nonprofit empire of salad dressing, popcorn, lemonade and assorted recipes. All proceeds went to charity , notably the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for kids with life-threatening maladies.

After Newman’s death in 2008, Hotchner wrote about his friend in Paul and Me. Other projects in recent years included a collection of letters between himself and Hemingway and a reissue of his Hemingway memoir. In 2013, he was among the commentators seen in Shane Salerno’s documentary about Salinger.

Hotchner was married three times, most recently to actress Virginia Kiser, and was the father of three children.

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