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R.I.P. Lois Duncan, author of I Know What You Did Last Summer

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NPR is reporting that author Lois Duncan, who earned international acclaim for her novels and picture books aimed at young adults and children, has died. Duncan was 82.

An author since the age of 14, Duncan broke into the literary world as a magazine writer, before penning her first novel, Love Song For Joyce, in 1958. As her career progressed, Duncan became known for her suspense stories, often centering on young female protagonists. Her most famous work in the horror vein, I Know What You Did Last Summer, was adapted into a film franchise in 1997, although Duncan was reportedly less than ecstatic with the movie’s campy, blood-drenched tone.


In between books like Summer and Killing Mr. Griffin (adapted into a TV movie by NBC), Duncan also published plenty of lighter fare, like The Terrible Tales Of Happy Days School, and Hotel For Dogs. (She appeared as an extra in one scene of the 2009 film version of the book.) Duncan wrote more than 50 books over her long career, and was honored in 1992 with the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award, recognizing lifetime achievements in the field of young adult literature. In the citation for the award, the ALA praised Duncan for the ethics she instilled in her books: “Whether accepting responsibility for the death of an English teacher or admitting to their responsibility for a hit and run accident, Duncan’s characters face a universal truth—your actions are important and you are responsible for them.”

In 1989, Duncan and her family were struck with tragedy, when her youngest daughter, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Arquette, was shot and killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police determined that Arquette’s death was a random drive-by shooting, but Duncan refused to accept the verdict, spending the next 25 years of her life investigating the causes of her daughter’s death. During that time, she would write two non-fiction books on the subject, 1992’s Who Killed My Daughter?, and its follow-up, 2013’s One To The Wolves. This period also marked a movement away from suspense fiction for Duncan, who published only one more horror novel—1997’s Gallows Hill—for the rest of her long career. According to NPR, her need for a concrete resolution to the shooting continued up until her death on Wednesday; she was reportedly in recent talks with Warner Bros. for a documentary about her daughter’s case.

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