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Amram Ducovny, novelist, former Brandeis official; at 75

Amram Ducovny, a writer and former columnist for Boston magazine whose first novel was published on his 73d birthday, died of heart disease Aug. 23 in Paris, where he lived. He was 75.

"Having the book published was one of his lifelong dreams fulfilled," his New York publicist, Andrew Blauner, said yesterday.

His novel, "Coney," was published in 2000 by Overlook Press and takes place on the eve of World War II in Coney Island, N.Y., where Mr. Ducovny was born and raised.

Mr. Ducovny wrote 10 nonfiction books, including "The Billion Dollar Swindle," "David Ben-Gurion: In His Own Words," "How to Shoot a Jewish Western," and a play, "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald."

The play, which had a short stint on Broadway in 1967 and was later made into a TV movie, also marked the stage debut of Mr. Ducovny's son, David Duchovny, star of the former Fox television show "The X-Files."

David, now of Los Angeles, uses the traditional spelling of the family name. Mr. Ducovny dropped the "h" after he was drafted into the Army.

"I got too tired of spending time between the molars of Army first sergeants, when they would mispronounce it," he once said.

A lover of jazz, especially the music of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, Mr. Ducovny grew up between Mermaid and Neptune avenues in Brooklyn and attended New Utrecht High School before graduating from New York University, according to his daughter, Laurie Duchovny of New York City.

In 1977, Mr. Ducovny moved to Boston and became director of public affairs for Brandeis University. From 1978 to 1982, he was vice president of the university.

He also served as public affairs director for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

Mr. Ducovny wrote a humor column entitled "Slice of Wry" for Boston magazine during the 1980s, directing his dry wit toward the expansion of the T's Red Line and antinuclear activists, among other topics.

In a May 1986 column entitled "Rites of Privacy," Mr. Ducovny reflected on being asked on a bus trip to extinguish his cigar. He offered a solution to help himself and others ride buses, trains, and planes more comfortably:

"There should be a section for vegetarians who gag at the sight of flesh eaters' food; a section for flesh eaters who gag at the sight of vegetarians' food; a sterilized compartment for former smokers now hooked on proselytizing; and a smoking area," he wrote.

Mr. Ducovny began his career as a novelist only after retiring to Paris in the early 1990s.

"I find the environment absolutely wonderful for writing," Mr. Ducovny said in an Aug. 7 article in Publishers Weekly. "I walk out in the streets; the architecture really feeds me. It's really a treat for the eyes."

"Coney," a semi-autobiographical book, tells the story of Harry Catzker, the rebellious teenage son of a Yiddish journalist. The youth is neglected by his parents and finds friendship among the misfits who roam the Coney Island Boardwalk.

It was widely acclaimed.

"Not unlike a woozy walk down a carnival midway, where the distractions of the moment are as irresistible as they are strange and foreboding," Mark Rozzo described the novel in a Los Angeles Times review. "Ducovny has a flair for an earthy kind of Americana, filled with adulteries, molestations, petty crimes, and one boy's efforts to find his place in a world going up in flames."

In recent years, Mr. Ducovny worked on a sequel, "A Lifetime is Once," in which Harry Catzker, now in his 70s and living in Paris, is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Ducovny leaves his wife, Varda, of Paris; another son, Daniel Ducovny of Los Angeles; a stepson, Jonathan Sahula of Boston; and two grandchildren.

Services have not yet been finalized.

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