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Jack Finney; Wrote 'The Body Snatchers'

November 17, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jack Finney, the author best known for his seminal science fiction novel "The Body Snatchers," which was turned into a cult film classic, has died. He was 84.

Finney died Tuesday of pneumonia at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif.

His tale of sinister pods from outer space that turn humans into unfeeling automatons was made into the film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in 1956 and remade in 1978 and again last year.

At the time Finney wrote the pulp novel in 1955, only his second book, many readers considered it an allegory about the dangers of either communism or McCarthyism taking over the world.

"Balderdash," was Finney's reaction. "I wrote the story purely as a good read."

Whether writing science fiction, detective stories or general fiction, Finney practiced escapism from the harsh and unpleasant present by setting his stories in the past, on other planets or in parallel dimensions.

His 1970 book "Time and Again" achieved classic status as a time travel adventure. It was reissued this year in a 25th anniversary edition to coincide with his new sequel, "From Time to Time."

In the earlier novel, Finney's time traveler Simon Morley visits late 1882, and in the sequel he chooses 1912 in an attempt to avert World War I and save the Titanic.

Reviewing both books, retired Times arts editor Charles Champlin wrote: " 'Time and Again' and its sequel are fantasies, wonderfully clever, original, inventive, instructive, evocative, surprising, suspenseful and, above all, charming. . . . splendid they are, too."

Among Finney's other books translated to the screen were "Five Against the House" featuring Kim Novak and Brian Keith, "Good Neighbor Sam" starring Jack Lemmon, "House of Numbers" with Jack Palance, and "Assault on a Queen" starring Frank Sinatra.

Finney also wrote the novels "The Night People" and "Forgotten News" and a play, "Telephone Roulette."

A prolific writer of short stories, he published several collections, including volumes titled "The Third Level," "I Love Galesburg in the Springtime" and "About Time."

The author is survived by his wife, Marguerite, a daughter and a son.

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