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A.E. Hotchner, Novelist, Playwright, Westporter, Dies At 102

Kathy Willens
A.E. Hotchner, who was Ernest Hemingway's close friend and biographer, holds photos of him and Hemingway from the 1950s in Ketchum, Idaho, where they went duck hunting together. Hotchner was photographed at his home in Westport, Conn., in 2019.

A.E. Hotchner was a friend of Ernest Hemingway and co-founder of Newman’s Own. The author and playwright has died in Westport, Connecticut, at the age of 102.   

Hotchner grew up in St. Louis. His memoirs of his childhood became the Steven Soderbergh movie “King of the Hill.” He spoke about the difficulty of writing to his alma mater Washington University in a series to mark his 100th birthday.

“We know about everything that happened in our lives. That doesn’t mean that we can dissect it emotionally, spiritually, entertainingly and as something that will move somebody who sees the words on a page.”

Hotchner met Hemingway in Cuba. The two stayed friends until Hemingway’s death. They hunted, drank and attended bullfights together. Hotchner told his friend’s story in the 1966 book “Papa Hemingway.”

In 1982 Hotchner helped his friend and Westport neighbor Paul Newman bottle some of his homemade salad dressing. Newman and Hotchner remembered later in a video for the Newman’s Own Foundation.

Newman: “It really all started as a joke. We started passing the salad dressing out at Christmastime, singing Christmas carols, and about six weeks later people were knocking on the doors asking for refills, and so we decided to go into business.”

Hotchner: “We kept making this fun. It was just fun.”

Newman’s Own has since given over $550 million to charity.

Disclosure: Newman’s Own Foundation is an underwriter for WSHU Public Radio.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.