W.P. Kinsella, the B.C.-based author of Shoeless Joe, the award-winning novel that became the film Field of Dreams, has died at 81.

His literary agency confirms the writer had a doctor-assisted death on Friday in Hope, B.C. The agency did not provide details about Kinsella's health.

Kinsella suffered a head injury when he was in a car accident in 1997. Three years after the accident, he said he had no interest in writing fiction and was spending his days playing Scrabble on the internet.

He did start writing again and his literary agency said in a statement that Kinsella's final work of fiction, Russian Dolls, will be published next year.

Kinsella published almost 30 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and was a winner of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.

His 1982 magic-realist novel Shoeless Joe, about a farmer who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball field, was adapted into the popular Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams.

'Storyteller, performer, curmudgeon'

Kinsella's agent Carolyn Swayze issued a statement on Friday saying Kinsella was "a unique, creative and outrageously opinionated man."

Swayze said Kinsella persuaded her to become a literary agent in 1994 to represent his work.

"He was a dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon and irascible and difficult man," her statement said.


Author W.P. Kinsella has died at age 81.

"Not a week has passed in the last 22 years, without [my] receiving a note of appreciation for Bill's stories. His contribution will endure."

Kinsella's biographer Willie Steele said Kinsella was always generous with his time, right into the final days of his life.

"He essentially told me a couple of weeks ago, 'You know, I'm not going to be here much longer, so whatever questions you've got, let's get them done,'" Steele said in an interview with CBC Radio One's On the Coast.

Steele recalled one of the last emails he received from Kinsella, in which Kinsella said, "I'm a storyteller, in that my greatest satisfaction comes from making people laugh and also leaving them with a tear in the corner of their eye."

"I think he's done that for a lot of people," Steele said.

A writer from an early age

Kinsella was born in Edmonton in 1935.

He began writing very early in life, winning a YMCA contest at the age of 14.

He took writing courses at the University of Victoria and earned a bachelor of arts in creative writing in 1974 and went on to complete a master of fine arts in English through the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Before becoming a professional author, Kinsella was a professor of English at the University of Calgary.

He is survived by his two daughters, who the agency said cared for him in his final years, and several grandchildren.

The agency said he asked not to have a memorial service.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast.