Author and Hemingway memoirist

Born: June 28, 1917;

Died: February 15, 2020.

A. E. Hotchner, who has died aged 102, was an American author whose output ranged from novels and television screenplays to a bestselling memoir about his friend, Ernest Hemingway. In 1988 he co-founded with his neighbour in Westport, Connecticut, one Paul Newman, a hugely successful business selling salad dressing, lemonade and other products. So successful, in fact, that Newman’s Own became a major donor to charities.

Aaron Edward Hotchner (known to friends as Ed or Hotch) grew up in Depression-ridden St Louis. He won a scholarship to Washington University, where he and Tennessee Williams worked on the student magazine. After serving in the Second World War he joined Cosmopolitan magazine, in New York, and was sent to Havana to interview Hemingway.

They became firm friends and travel companions, often visiting bullfights in Spain. In 1966, five years after Hemingway’s suicide, he published a book, Papa Hemingway. It had an uneasy publishing history as Hemingway’s widow sued for what she considered inaccuracies about their marriage and his death. It became, however, an acclaimed bestseller and was translated into 28 languages.

Hotchner later wrote Hemingway and His World (1989) and Hemingway in Love (2015).

He often served as Hemingway’s editor and was involved in suggesting the title of his friend’s great posthumous memoir about Paris, A Moveable Feast. He also adapted for television several of Hemingway’s short stories, one of which, The Battler, was to have starred James Dean. When Dean was killed in a car crash, Paul Newman took over the role.

Choice People (1984) consists of anecdotal profiles of Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton and Marlene Dietrich; Everyone Comes to Elaine’s (2004), captures life in the celebrated Manhattan restaurant with the appropriate sub-title, “Forty Years of Movie Stars, All-Stars, Literary Lions, Financial Scions, Top Cops, Politicians, and Power Brokers at the Legendary Hot Spot.”

Other books included The Man Who Lived at the Ritz, about Hemingway and Coco Chanel at the hotel in Paris. Hotchner also wrote biographies of Doris Day and Sophia Loren. He captured his difficult youth in the depression in King of the Hill (1972), which was adapted into a film by Steven Soderbergh in 1993.

The salad-dressing business came about in 1980 when Newman asked Hotchner to help in his Christmas ritual of mixing salad dressing in his kitchen and handing it out to neighbours as they went around the area singing carols. There were some bottles left over and Hotchner suggested: “Why don’t we put them in the local stores?” He also had the idea of putting Newman’s name and face on the label. The actor agreed, as long as the profits went to good causes. Ten thousand bottles of salad dressing were sold in two weeks and Newman’s Own was born.

Hotchner’s last book, published when he was 101, was The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom, which was a largely autobiographical novel. He is survived by his third wife Virginia Kiser, and by two daughters and a son from his previous marriages.