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Norris Church Mailer dead at 61

November 22, 2010 |  6:30 am

Norris Church Mailer, the sixth and last wife of writer Norman Mailer, died on Sunday in Brooklyn. An author herself, Norris Church Mailer, who had been battling gastrointestinal cancer, was 61. Norman Mailer died  in November 2007.

Norris Church Mailer followed up two novels with her 2010 memoir, "A Ticket to the Circus." In it, she writes of her life -- two thirds of which involved the highs and lows of her relationship with Norman Mailer.

Born Barbara Jean Davis in Arkansas, Norris Church Mailer was a 26-year-old art teacher and single mother when she met Norman Mailer, then 52; he was on tour with his book, "Marilyn." Months later, she moved to New York and started a life with the pugnacious author. She became a model and actress and exhibited her paintings. After her cancer diagnosis 11 years ago, she began writing. Her memoir came later.

"I always said I wasn’t going to write about Norman because no one would believe it," she told the New York Times earlier this year. "But when you go to bed after you’ve lost your husband, you start thinking about the life together, and it just poured out. It felt good because I got to relive all the happy early stuff and I got to wade through all the bad stuff and sort it out in my head. I didn’t want to make anybody a villain. I just wanted to tell my story."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Norman Mailer and Norris Church Mailer in 1981. Credit: Associated Press