Robert James Waller, 'Bridges of Madison County' Author, Dead At 77

His beloved 1992 novel celebrated romantic love.

Robert James Waller, the author best known for his 1992 novel The Bridges of Madison County, has died. He was 77 years old.

According to Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency, Waller died either Thursday or early Friday in Texas. Agent Lucy Childs told The Associated Press that she did not know the cause, but was aware that the author had been ill.

Waller, born in Rockford, Iowa, in 1939, wrote a series of novels and non-fiction works throughout his life, including The Bridges of Madison County (originally titled Love in Black and White in the U.K.), 1993’s Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, 1995’s Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, and 2002’s A Thousand Country Roads (the sequel to Bridges)

Bridges and Puerto Vallarta Squeeze were both adapted into films, the former starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, the latter Harvey Keitel. 

Bridges follows an Italian-American woman living in Madison County, Iowa, with her farmer husband in the 1960s. Feeling isolated, she begins a short affair with a photographer from Washington state, who is visiting the area for a National Geographic project on the town’s covered bridges. Though the story reads like an account written by the primary character, Francesca, the tale is fictional. 

Critic L.S. Klepp wrote in 1992 of the book:

It seems likely to melt all but the most determined cynics. Even those of us who think that romantic love contains more than the usual share of human illusion are willingly floored by it now and then, in literature as in life.

Waller reportedly wrote Bridges 11 days and saw it climb to No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list, on which it stayed for over three years. The novel, which was also adapted into a Broadway musical, inspired many engaged couples to travel to Madison County’s covered bridges to get married.

The Huffington Post has reached out to Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency and will update this post accordingly.