A. E. Hotchner, a highly successful biographer of Ernest Hemingway and friend and business partner of Paul Newman, died Saturday, Feb. 15, at his home in Westport, Conn., it was announced by his wife, Virginia Kiser.
Mr. Hotchner, who grew up in Depression-era St. Louis, wrote about that experience affectionately in two of his novels, “King of the Hill” (1972) and “The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom” (2018), a light-hearted detective story, which was his last published book among score he published in the course of his long career. “King of the Hill,” which was adapted for the big screen in 1993, proved to be a box office and critical success.
Mr. Hotchner was a proud graduate of Soldan High School and of Washington University, where Tennessee Williams was among his classmates. He received undergraduate and law degrees at Washington University and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1941. Washington University dedicated a 125-seat, state-of-the-art “black box” theater to the author and playwright, named the A. E. Hotchner Studio Theatre (home to the annual A. E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival), located in the Mallinckrodt Center.
In 1991, Mr. Hotchner was one of the authors featured at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. While Hotchner did not come from a celebrity background, he had an almost Zelig-like affinity for developing friendships and interview opportunities with a virtual Who’s Who in Hollywood, Broadway and literature. Most notably was his friendship with Hemingway, the subject of Hotchner’s acclaimed biography, “Papa Hemingway,” which candidly delved into Hemingway’s deep depression and paranoia that led to his suicide in 1962.
Hemingway authorized Mr. Hotchner to write television plays based on Hemingway’s novels and stories. One of those stories became the film “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” which starred a young unknown actor named Paul Newman. In the course of their friendship, Mr. Hotchner urged Newman to market his famous salad dressing. “What do I need with a salad business,” Newman asked. “I certainly have enough money for three lifetimes already.”
Mr. Hotchner urged him to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to charity, which Newman agreed to do.
Aaron Edward Hotchner was born in St. Louis, on June 28, 1917, the son of Samuel, a traveling salesman, and Tillie Rossman Hotchner, a synagogue administrator. He grew up in the old Avalon Hotel. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He moved tom New York after the war and was a celebrity interviewer for Cosmopolitan magazine. Mr. Hotchner’s first marriage to Geraldine Mavor in 1949 ended in divorce. He and Ursula Robbins married in 1970 and divorced in 1995. He married Kisler in 2007.
In addition to Kisler, he is survived by two daughters, Holly and Tracie Hotchner, and a son, Timothy. He had homes in Manhattan and Westport, Conn.