Author dies of 'self-inflicted' wound

Louis Owens, a prize-winning novelist and leading scholar on American Indian fiction, has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, hospital officials said. He was 53.

Louis Owens, a prize-winning novelist and leading scholar on American Indian fiction, has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, hospital officials said. He was 53.

Owens, author of The Bone Game, Dark River and other novels, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest at the Albuquerque airport early on Wednesday and was brought to the University of New Mexico Hospital, airport spokeswoman Maggie Santiago said.

He died on Thursday afternoon, hospital spokesman Sam Giammo said.

In addition to writing novels, Owens was a scholar of American Indian literature and the work of novelist John Steinbeck. He was on the faculty at the University of California-Davis.

‘‘I would list him as the leading scholar on Native American fiction in the country,’’ said Jack Hicks, a colleague. ‘‘He was a remarkably talented writer.’’

Owens had won a Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year award in 1998 for Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place.

One of his best-regarded works was Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. He had won a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in 1989.

‘‘He did that thing which is not usual for creative writers, being known equally as a scholar and a creative writer,’’ said Pat Smith, an English professor at the University of New Mexico, where Owens formerly taught.

Owens was of Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry. His other novels were The Sharpest Sight, Wolfsong and Nightland.

Ms Santiago, the airport spokeswoman, said a passenger heard a gunshot, saw Owens slumped over and called police. A pistol was found with him.

‘‘All the physical evidence indicated it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest,’’ she said. A note found with him asked that his wife be notified, she added.

Owens, born in 1948 in Lompoc, California, had also worked as a firefighter for the US Forest Service. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California and his PhD from UC Davis.

In addition to his wife, Owens is survived by two daughters.

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