By Mary O’KEEFE
Ray Bradbury, science fiction and fantasy writer, has died at the age of 91.
The author and recipient of the 2000 National Book Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, died on Tuesday after a long illness. He lived in Los Angeles, according to a statement from the author’s publicist at HarperCollins.
“We are all just shocked, totally shocked. We have lost one of our best friends,” said Malcolm Bell, who, along with his wife Christine, owns Mystery and Imagination Bookstore in Glendale.
The Glendale bookstore has hosted about 20 events with Bradbury over the years. Bradbury and Christine were close friends since the late ’70s.
“He would call up and ask us how we were doing and how the business was doing,” Bell said. “I would say, ‘Well, Ray, it’s a little slow,’ and he would say, ‘It sounds like you need me again.’”
The store soon became a place for Bradbury’s birthday celebrations and an event for every new book released.
“He joked we should rename the store the Ray Bradbury Shop,” Bell said.
A Bradbury book signing at the Mystery and Imagination Bookstore could bring up to 400 people into the store. It was crowded, but had an intimate feel. Bradbury would speak to everyone and sign book after book.
“He felt very comfortable here. He knew fans loved him and it was a great venue,” Bell said. “He especially liked signing books for young children.”
Bradbury’s groundbreaking books include “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s classic film adaptation of “Moby Dick,” and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted 65 of his stories for television’s “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” and won an Emmy for his teleplay of “The Halloween Tree,” stated his publicist.
In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled “Bradbury Speaks,” in which he wrote: “In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.”
Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932.
At the end of his performance, Electrico reached out to the 12-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, “Live forever!”
“We always thought Ray was going to live forever,” Bell said.
He is survived by his four daughters Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marguerite, predeceased him in 2003 after 57 years of marriage.