LONDON (AP) -- American author Harry Harrison, whose space-age spoofs delighted generations of science fiction fans, has died, a friend said Wednesday. He was 87.
Irish sci-fi writer Michael Carroll said in a telephone interview that he learned of Harrison's passing from the author's daughter, Moira, earlier in the day. He said Harrison died in southern England, but didn't have much further detail.
Harrison was a prolific writer whose works ranged from tongue-in-cheek inter-galactic action romps to dystopian fantasies, with detours through children's stories and shambolic crime capers. Carroll said most of the works delivered a stream of sly humor with a big bucket of action.
"Imagine `Pirates of the Caribbean' or `Raiders of the Lost Ark,' and picture them as science fiction novels," he said. "They're rip-roaring adventures, but they're stories with a lot of heart."
Harrison was best known for his "Stainless Steel Rat" series, starring the free-spirited anti-hero Slippery Jim DiGriz, a quick-witted conman who travels the universe swindling humans, aliens and robots alike. His 1966 work, "Make Room! Make Room!" — a sci-fi take on the horrors of overpopulation — inspired the 1973 film "Soylent Green" starring Charlton Heston.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut, in 1925, Harrison served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II before working freelance as a commercial artist and eventually embarking on a long career as one of science fiction's leading writers.
Carroll, who helps maintain Harrison's website, said he remembers laughing so hard he almost choked when he read one of Harrison's books as a teenager. He later met his hero at a book signing in Dublin, and said that the two remained friends ever since. Harrison could be difficult, he said, explaining that the American did not "suffer fools gladly" and "absolutely savaged" Carroll's first attempt at a novel.
But Carroll said his writing was the better for it, and that Harrison was kind and generous to his friends.
"He had a gruff manner, but when you got to know him he was a sweetheart," he said.
Harrison is survived by Moira and a son, Todd. Harrison's wife, Joan, died in 2002.
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