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Anne Rivers Siddons (1936–2019) bestselling author of “Peachtree Road”

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Her 19 novels brought the South to life for a generation of readers

Anne Rivers Siddons was the bestselling author of novels including 1988’s “Peachtree Road,” the Atlanta-based story that Pat Conroy called “the Southern novel for our generation.” Siddons focused on the South throughout her career, writing 19 novels set in and around her Georgia hometown. Her debut novel, 1976’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” was adapted into the 1989 feature film, “Heart of Dixie.” Siddons followed it with the 1978 horror novel, “The House Next Door,” which Stephen King called one of the best horror novels of the 20th century. Among her novels that followed were “Homeplace” (1987), “Sweetwater Creek” (2005), and her most recent, “The Girls of August” (2014).

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Died: September 11, 2019 (Who else died on September 11?)

Details of death: Died in Charleston, South Carolina of lung cancer at the age of 83.


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How she got her start: Attending Auburn University in the 1950s, Siddons was a journalist for her college newspaper, where she was fired for writing columns in favor of integration — a story she’d later work into her debut novel. But before she became a novelist, she wrote for Atlanta magazine. An editor at publishing giant Doubleday saw one of her articles for the magazine and was so impressed that he wrote her a letter soliciting a manuscript for possible publication. The stunned Siddons sent him a collection of essays, and they were published as her first book — and only full-length nonfiction work — 1975’s “John Chancellor Always Makes Me Cry.”

Notable quote: “All over Atlanta that fall, in the blue twilights, girls came clicking home from their jobs in their clunky heels and miniskirts and opened their apartment windows to the Winesap air, and got out ice cubes, and put on Petula Clark singing ‘Downtown,’ and sat down to wait. Soon the young men would come, drifting out of their bachelor apartments in Bermuda shorts and Topsiders, carrying beers and gin and tonics, looking for a refill and a date and the keeping of promises that hung in the bronze air like fruit on the eve of ripeness.” —from “Downtown” (1995)

What people said about her: “She played a very important role. I think that Anne is the picture of what a Southern woman had to overcome in her life to break from the barriers of old expectations. Even when she landed on the New York Times bestseller list, her mother at the end of a phone conversation still said, ‘Have you ever done anything about your teaching certificate?’” —Cynthia Graubart, author and friend to Siddons

“Loss to Southern voices with the passing of the talented Anne Rivers Siddons, author of The House Next Door, Heartbreak Hotel, Peachtree Road, etc. She led the way in presenting strong capable Southern women.” —Twitter user @clairecount

“Today I learned of the death of Anne Rivers Siddons, a gem of a person & of a writer. Over the past decades I had the chance to interview Anne several times and each was a memorable moment. She was the personification of southern charm and grace.” —Twitter user @JackieKCooper

Full obituary: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Related lives:

  • Pat Conroy (1945–2016), bestselling author and friend to Siddons
  • Toni Morrison (1931–2019), Nobel Prize-winning author of “Beloved”
  • Reynolds Price (1933–2011), award-winning Southern author