Peck, writer, advocate of self-reliance, dies


Dr. M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who worked his way into national consciousness with the publication of his 1978 self-help book, The Road Less Traveled, has died. He was 69.

Dr. Peck died Sunday at his home in Warren, Conn., said Los Angeles publicist Michael Levine. He said Dr. Peck had suffered from pancreatic and liver duct cancer.

The Road Less Traveled, which began with a sentence confirming the universal feeling that "life is difficult," has sold more than 6 million copies, has been translated into at least 20 languages and set a longevity record for a paperback - more than 10 years - on The New York Times best-seller list.

with Dr. Peck's other books, it made him a multi-billionaire, a highly sought-after lecturer and such a household name in the early 1980s that many called him "the national shrink."

A 25th-anniversary edition of The Road was issued in 2002, and Dr. Peck wrote several sequels. They included Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth and Meditations From the Road, both published in 1993, and 1997's The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety.

Subtitled A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, the original book avoided the quick fixes prevalent in the pop psychology of its era. Instead it urged people to face problems squarely and deal with them through self-discipline, turning weakness into strength.

"The fact is, life is difficult and there is often much to worry about," the author said in a 1991 interview. "That's very disillusioning for people who think that we're here to be happy."

Random House, where the little-known psychiatrist tried to peddle his original manuscript, turned him down, saying the final section was "too Christ-y."

Simon & Schuster bought the work for $7,500 and printed a modest hardback run of 5,000 copies.

The book took off only after Dr. Peck hit the lecture circuit and personally sought reviews in key publications.

A student of Zen Buddhism who converted to nondenominational Christianity in 1980, Dr. Peck wrote nearly a score of books, both nonfiction and fiction, dealing primarily with taking personal responsibility and ways to work toward love and spirituality.

"I guess if you want one single thing I'm about," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1990, "it's that I'm against easy answers."

Born Morgan Scott Peck on May 22, 1936, in New York, the author earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard, studied pre-med at Columbia University and got his medical degree at Case Western Reserve University.

He served in the Army, rising to lieutenant colonel, first as chief of psychology at the U.S. Army Medical Center in Okinawa, Japan, and later as assistant chief of psychiatry and neurology in the office of the surgeon general in Washington. Dr. Peck practiced psychiatry privately in New Preston, Conn., from 1972 until 1984.

Dr. Peck is survived by his second wife, Kathleen Kline Yates Peck; two children from his earlier marriage to Lily Ho, Belinda and Christopher; and two grandchildren.

Myrna Oliver is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

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