Donald Carpenter; Novelist, Screenwriter

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Donald R. Carpenter, a novelist and screenwriter whose credits include the film "Payday," has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 64.

Carpenter, who had diabetes and other health problems, died in his home Thursday, police said.

His highly praised first novel was "Hard Rain Falling" in 1966 set in San Quentin and describing the life of a Portland, Ore., orphan. His most recent novel was the 1989 "From a Distant Place" set in affluent Marin County.

Carpenter also wrote "Blade of Light," published in 1968; "Getting Off" in 1971 about his own unwanted divorce, and "A Couple of Comedians" in 1979.

A great fan of actor Rip Torn, Carpenter said he wrote "Payday"--about a country singer driving himself to ruin--specifically for Torn.

Film writer Leonard Maltin in his Movie and Video Guide 1995 praised Carpenter's screenplay as "finely scripted" and called the picture "engrossing and very well done."

"I did what I was trying to do--make a movie about that guy," Carpenter, proud of his just-finished film, told The Times in 1973. "If you take the average guy and flood him with success and if he's raised poor, that's about the way he's going to be. If you go at double speed, you die double quick."

A native of Berkeley Hills, Carpenter began his career as a reporter for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes while serving in the Air Force.

His latest manuscript, not yet published, is titled "Fridays at Enrico's." It's a semi-autobiographical look at the lunches he shared in a popular San Francisco restaurant with writers Richard Brautigan, Evan S. Connell and Curt Gentry in the mid-1970s.

Carpenter is survived by his wife, Martha; two daughters, a brother and three grandchildren.

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