DES MOINES, Iowa — W.P. (Bill) Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe, which was adapted for the movie Field of Dreams, died Friday at age 81, according to a press release from his literary agency.
Kinsella was a Canadian-born author who started writing Shoeless Joe while enrolled at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City, which would become the setting for the 1982 novel.
It was Kinsella’s passion for baseball that influenced the plot of the beloved tale, in which the ghost of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the Chicago White Sox outfielder who was banned from baseball for his part in the 1919 World Series betting scandal, tells a farmer to build a baseball field.
Field of Dreams filmmaker Phil Alden Robinson was fascinated by Kinsella’s rural ballfield fantasy and brought the work to life with a ball diamond built into a corn field and boisterous characters, shooting much of the movie in Dyersville.
The movie, which was released in 1989, starred Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.
Kinsella praised the film in an interview with The Register in 2014, though he summed up the summer of 1988 in northeast Iowa with two words: "colossal boredom."
One for bluntness, he added that he spent “two horrible days in the gym” near Farley to participate as an extra in the scene that shows Ray and Annie Kinsella, the main characters, in a PTA meeting.
Kinsella published nearly 30 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
It was the last two lines of his 1974 poem "The Bugs of Johnson County" — "Is this Heaven? No, just count the bugs. It's Iowa!" — that were reportedly adapted for Shoeless Joe, before becoming one of the movie's greatest exchanges. Ray Liotta, playing Jackson, asked Costner's character (Ray Kinsella), "Hey, is this heaven?" Costner's reply: "No, it's Iowa."
Another line from the movie — "If you build it, he will come." — was ranked 39th on The American Film Institute's list of 100 memorable movie quotes.
The writer had a doctor-assisted death on Friday in Hope, British Columbia, according to CBS Canada.