Morris L. West, 83, an Australian author of 27 novels that sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, died Oct. 9 at his home in Sydney. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. West, who was best known for his thrillers, was the author of such bestselling works as "The Shoes of the Fisherman," "The Devil's Advocate," and "Children of the Sun." He also wrote plays, screenplays and radio dramas and saw his work translated into more than 25 languages.

Mr. West, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, was a member of the Christian Brothers Order, before leaving in 1939 to become an intelligence officer. He later served as a political aide and then worked in radio before becoming a full-time writer.

He told a reporter that the most trying time in his life came when he found himself "trying to find out who I was after I'd spent 10, 12 years in a monastery and came out with part of my mind well developed and the rest of me not knowing who the hell I was, in a world at war of which I know nothing."

Mr. West embarked on a career as a novelist that resulted in works that illustrated a search for religious and moral identity and truth. The novels inevitably explored tantalizing "what if?" historical questions and served as showcases for the author's expertise in history and theology.

His 1963 novel, "The Shoes of the Fisherman," explored the possibility of the election of a pope who not only was not Italian but who came from behind the Iron Curtain. Characters in the book reminded one of French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Pope John XXIII. The book was made into a movie.

Mr. West's first big-seller was "The Big Story," which appeared in 1957, followed two years later by "The Devil's Advocate." His 1965 bestseller, "The Ambassador," was his take on the war in Southeast Asia, while his 1968 work, "The Tower of Babel," examined events leading up to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Later works included "The Summer of Red Wolf," which appeared in 1971, "Harlequin," in 1974, "The Clowns of the Gods," in 1981, "The World Is Made of Glass," in 1983 and "Cassidy," in 1986.

In his eighties, he wrote "Eminence," a story about the election of a pontiff, which involved topics from the governance of the Vatican to the modernization of the Catholic Church. Mr. West died while at work on his latest novel, "The Last Confession."

During his years as a novelist, Mr. West roamed the world. He lived in New York, Florida, Britain and Sardinia. He gained a reputation for securing both fans and sources in high places in the Catholic Church and in several governments. Since 1982, he had lived in Sydney.

Survivors include his wife, Joy, of Sydney, and six children.