Newswire: R.I.P. Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds

Colleen McCullough, author of the The Thorn Birds, the bestselling book that helped cement the miniseries genre, has died at her home on Norfolk Island in Australia. Deadline reports that the 77-year-old novelist had been in ill health in recent years.

McCullough started out in the medical profession, and she was researching and teaching neurophysiology at Yale Medical School when she began writing on the side in the ’70s. The first of her many novels, Tim, featured a relationship between a developmentally disabled young man and a somewhat older widow. It was made into a movie in 1979 with Mel Gibson and Piper Laurie.

Her second book was even more successful, and became a worldwide phenomenon despite some less-than-positive reviews of the romantic page-turner. The Thorn Birds, set in McCullough’s native Australia, tackled the decades-long history of the sheep-farming Cleary family, focusing on the illicit affair between Meggie Cleary …

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