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‘Shadow of the Wind’ author Carlos Ruiz Zafón dead at 55

MADRID — Carlos Ruiz Zafón, whose wildly popular 2001 novel, “The Shadow of the Wind,” led to three sequels and made him one of the world’s most beloved Spanish authors, has died. He was 55.

His Spanish publisher, Planeta, said in a statement Friday that Mr. Zafón died in Los Angeles. It gave no cause of death, but Mr. Zafón was known to have had cancer.

“One of the most read and admired Spanish authors worldwide has left us,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Twitter. “Carlos Ruiz Zafón . . . leaves an important mark in modern literature. Thank you for letting us travel through your stories.”

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“The Shadow of the Wind,” a literary thriller, was the first in his series “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.”

The novel, set in Barcelona and mingling reality, fantasy, and romance, recounts a quest by the son of a bookshop owner to find the works of a mysterious author and to learn who has been destroying them.

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul,” Mr. Zafón wrote in the novel in a quote that many were posting on social media after his death. “The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

The sprawling, detailed storytelling and world-building led some to compare Mr. Zafón to Dickens and Tolstoy. And the book’s worldwide popularity as a work of Spanish literature brought him comparisons to Cervantes.

Its 2004 translation into English, heavily praised and promoted by Stephen King, made Mr. Zafón an international literary superstar.

He would spend the next 16 years writing three sequels featuring the same literature-obsessed protagonist, Daniel Sempere: 2008’s “The Angel’s Game,’’ 2011’s “The Prisoner of Heaven,” and 2017’s “The Labyrinth of Spirits.’’

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“Zafón’s writing is sumptuous and dark and epic,” author Livia Llewellyn wrote on Twitter Friday. “The Shadow of the Wind is one of those novels I return to every couple of years because it’s everything I love about writing.”

Mr. Zafón’s works have been translated into more than 50 languages, according to Planeta, and have won numerous prizes.

Born in Barcelona in 1964, the son of an insurance salesman, Mr. Zafón worked as a publicist before becoming a full-time writer.

He first gained notice in 1993 with a horror-mystery novel for young adults, “The Prince of Mist.” It would become a trilogy along with 1994’s “The Midnight Palace’’ and 1995’s “The Watcher in the Shadows.”

Mr. Zafón was also an accomplished amateur pianist and composer.