James Gould Cozzens, 74, Pulitzer Prize-winning author who always shunned the limelight, died of pneumonia Aug. 9 in Stuart, Fla., his publisher, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., reported yesterday.
He had been living with a sister-in-law, Fannie Collins, in Stuart since the death of his wife, Bernice, earlier this year.
A spokesman for the publisher said that the day before his deaths, Mr. Cozzens had looked at a 600-page collection of his work called "Just Representation." It had been put together to mark his 75th birthday, which would have been today (Aug. 19).
Mr. Cozzens, who preferred to live in seclusion even during the height of his literary career, was the author of at least 16 books and countless short stories.
His novel "Guard of Honor," the story of an Army officer who had to make momentous decisions involving a near race riot and the death of a group of paratroopers, published in 1948, brought him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
He probably was better known, however, for his novel, "By Love Possessed," which hit the book shelves in 1957 and immediately became a best seller. The law, medicine, the ministry and the military played a part in this story, described by one critic as "an encyclopedia of love, its varied meanings and uses." It was made into a motion picture. It also received the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
His first novel, "Confusion," was published in 1924 while he was a sophomore at Harvard College.
"It made me in own eyes a real figure in literature at once," he said later. "I was an author of far too much promise to waste time any longer at schoolboy work. So I quit school and got at my career."
Mr. Cozzens, who was considered a meticulous workman, produced slowly. He was a traditional writer who shunned flashy techniques.
"Cozzens' solidly designed word buildings have a functional beauty not immediately evident to those whose tastes have been conditioned by the Gothic exuberance of Joyce and Faulkner," wrote one critic in reviewing "By Love Possessed."
His other books included "Michael Scarlett," 1925, "Cockpit," 1928, "The Son od Perdition," 1929, S S San Pedro," 1931, "The Last Adam," 1933, "Castaway," 1934, "Men and Brethren," 1936, "Ask Me Tomorrow," 1940, "The Just and the Unjust," 1942, "Children and Others," 1964, "Morning Noon and Night," 1968, "A Flower in Her Hair," 1974, and "A Rope for Dr. Webster," 1976.
Mr. Cozzens was born in Chicago while his parents were visiting there. He grew up on Staten Island, N.Y., and attended the Kent School in Connecticut. While there he published his first article in the Atlantic Monthly.
"At about the age of 10," he once recalled, "I decided definitely that I was going to be a writer. I imagine (it) was because I got praise and high marks in composition, which I found no work at all, while most other school subjects were hard and uninteresting."
He spent 1925 in Cuba where he taught in a sugar company's school for children of American engineers. From there he went to Europe for a year. Later he and his wife bought a farm in Lambertville, N.J., where they lived quietly for many years.
In addition to his books, Mr. Cozzens wrote short stories that were published in Pictorial Review, the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner's Magazine, Collier's, the Woman's Home Companion and other periodicals.
Despite the popularity of some of his books, he declined to make public appearances and give interviews. He stayed away from the television cameras and declined to autograph copies of his books at department store counters.
"Jim just doesn't like publicity," his wife, a literary agent, said at one time. "He puts all his energy into his work. He feels an author should be judged solely by what he writes."
Cozzens came out of seclusion in 1942 to volunteer for service with the Army Air Forces. He spent three years writing training manuals and speeches and was discharged as a major at the end of 1945. He began writing "Guard of Honor" shortly after leaving the military.
Mr. Cozzens was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1943.He at one time had indulged in gardening as a hobby and had been a member of the American Rose Society.