M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who worked his way into national consciousness with the publication of his 1978 self-help book, "The Road...
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.
Mr. Peck died last Sunday at his home in Warren, Conn., Los Angeles publicist Michael Levine said. He said Mr. Peck had suffered from pancreatic and liver-duct cancer.
The book, which began with a sentence confirming the universal feeling that “life is difficult,” sold more than 6 million copies, was 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.
Along with Mr. Peck’s other books, it made him a multibillionaire, a highly sought-after lecturer and such a household name in the early 1980s that many called him “the national shrink.”
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A 25th anniversary edition of “The Road” was issued in 2002, and Mr. 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 for Playboy. “That’s very disillusioning for people who think that we’re here to be happy.”
Random House, where the little-known psychiatrist first 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 Mr. Peck hit the lecture circuit and personally sought reviews in key publications. Reprinted in paperback in 1980, “The Road” first made best-seller lists in 1983 — five years after its initial publication.
A student of Zen Buddhism who converted to nondenominational Christianity in 1980, Mr. 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,” Mr. Peck told the Los Angeles Times in 1990, “it’s that I’m against easy answers.”
Mr. Peck’s novels dealt with subjects such as creating communities, a spiritual murder mystery and a psychiatrist’s after-death travels.
Born Morgan Scott Peck May 22, 1936, in New York, the author earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard, studied premed at Columbia University and received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University. He served in the Army, rising to lieutenant colonel, first as chief of psychology at the Army Medical Center in Okinawa, Japan, and later as assistant chief of psychiatry and neurology in the office of the surgeon general in Washington.
Mr. Peck practiced psychiatry privately in New Preston, Conn., from 1972 until 1984 and incorporated anecdotes from patients’ case histories into his books.
Mr. 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.