LONDON (AP) – British author John Fowles, whose works include “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and “The Collector” has died. He was 79.

Fowles died Saturday at his home in Lyme Regis, Dorset, southwest England, after a long illness, according to his publisher Random House. The publisher said Fowles’ wife, Sarah, was by his side at the time of his death.

Fowles’ writing career spanned more than 40 years and his most famous work – “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” was made into the Oscar-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.

A former English teacher, Fowles’ first novel “The Collector” – about a butterfly collector who imprisons a woman in his basement – was published in 1963 and became an immediate best-seller. It was made into a film in 1965 starring Terence Stamp.

“The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” concerning a mysterious 19th century Englishwoman, was published in 1969 and became the most commercially successful of Fowles’ novels.

He also wrote “The Magus.” Written in 1965, it is the story of Englishman Nicholas Urfe who takes a teaching post on a remote Greek island when his affair with an Australian woman becomes too serious. There he becomes involved in an increasingly intense psychological game with a local magician. The novel’s inconclusive ending is typical of Fowles’ work.

His other works include “Daniel Martin” (1977); “Mantissa” (1982), “A Maggot” (1985) and a collection of short stories, poetry and works of nonfiction.

The author hated the fame that accompanied his success and complained of feeling persecuted by his readers.

“They want to see you and talk to you. And they don’t realize that very often that gets on one’s nerves,” he once said.

Dan Franklin of the publishing company Jonathan Cape, part of Random House, said Fowles was an “extraordinary writer with an extraordinary range” but shunned the literary world.

“He hated playing the game of the famous writer. He just wanted to be in his garden in Lyme Regis. What he loved was nature, birds and flowers. Not people,” he said. “‘The Magus’ arguably changed the lives of every 18-year-old who read it, and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ changed British fiction with its post modernist tricks.”

Fowles was born March 31, 1926, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in eastern England to a cigar importer and teacher.

He studied at Bedford School and briefly attended Edinburgh University before entering into compulsory military service from 1945 to 1947.

After the war, Fowles received a degree in French from Oxford University and began a career as an English teacher.

One teaching post took him to a college on the Greek island of Spetsai, an experience that provided inspiration for “The Magus.”

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