Blatty's widow, Julie Alicia Blatty, confirmed the news to The Associated Press, telling the outlet that Blatty passed away at a hospital near his home in Bethesda, Maryland. She said that the cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
First published in 1971, "The Exorcist" told the story of a young girl who was possessed by a satanic force, inspired by a real-life incident that Blatty -- who grew up Catholic -- had read about while attending college. The book was an immediate hit, spending more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list, and moving more than 10 million copies throughout its print run.
More success followed with the film version, released in 1973, which was written and produced by Blatty and starred a young Linda Blair as the possessed Regan. The film was considered revolutionary at the time, featuring now-iconic imagery of a head-spinning, vomiting child, and audiences were literally sickened by the shocking flick. Religious figures condemned "The Exorcist," but that didn't stop it from racking up more than $400 million at the worldwide box office (a then-whopping sum for an R-rated feature), as well as 10 Academy Award nominations. It took home two trophies, including one for Blatty's screenplay.
Four film sequels followed, but only one, "The Exorcist III," had Blatty's direct involvement, with the author both writing and directing the 1990 flick. (He adapted his own novel, 1983's "Legion," for that film.) He also wrote and directed 1980's "The Ninth Configuration" (based on a revised version of one of his earlier novels, "Twinkle, Twinkle, 'Killer Kane'"), for which he received a Golden Globe Award for best screenplay. In addition to those adaptations, he wrote several screenplays in the 1960s, including those for the Blake Edwards films "A Shot in the Dark" and "What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?"
Blatty is survived by his wife and his eight children.
[via: The Associated Press]