NEW YORK — Peter Matthiessen, a rich man's son who spurned a life of leisure and embarked on extraordinary physical and spiritual quests while producing such acclaimed books as The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord, died of leukemia Saturday at a hospital near his home on Long Island. He was 86.
Few authors could claim such a wide range of achievements. Mr. Matthiessen helped found The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines, and won National Book Awards for The Snow Leopard, his spiritual account of the Himalayas, and for the novel Shadow Country.
A leading environmentalist and wilderness writer, he embraced the best and worst that nature could bring him, whether trekking across the Himalayas, parrying sharks in Australia or enduring a hurricane in Antarctica.
He also was a longtime liberal who befriended Cesar Chavez and wrote a defense of Indian activist Leonard Peltier.
In the 1980s and '90s, he published a trio of novels — Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man's River and Bone by Bone — about a community in Florida's Everglades at the turn of the 20th century and a predatory planter. Unhappy, he spent years revising and condensing all three books into Shadow Country, published in 2008 and a surprise National Book Award winner.