Author Christopher Hitchens dies

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English-American author and journalist Christopher Hitchens has died after losing his battle with cancer.

The outspoken atheist had been undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last year, but died aged 62 at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, last night.

Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, where Mr Hitchens was a contributing editor, paid tribute on the magazine's website.

"Christopher Hitchens was a wit, a charmer and a troublemaker, and to those who knew him well, he was a gift from, dare I say, God," he wrote.

"He died today at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre, in Houston, after a punishing battle with oesophageal cancer, the same disease that killed his father.

He said Mr Hitchens would be remembered for his "elevated but inclusive humour" and a "staggering, almost punishing memory that held up under the most liquid of late-night conditions".

He wrote: "And to all of us, his readers, Christopher Hitchens will be remembered for the millions of words he left behind. They are his legacy. And, God love him, it was his will."

The English-American citizen, who is survived by his wife and three children, was born in Portsmouth - the son of a naval officer - and educated at private school and Oxford University.

A columnist and literary critic, he often appeared on talk shows and gave lectures.

The publication of his 2007 book God Is Not Great made him a major celebrity in his adopted homeland of the United States - he became a US citizen in 2007.

An outspoken atheist, he took on former prime minister Tony Blair in a televised debate last year in Toronto, Canada, linking God to a "celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea".

His memoir Hitch-22 was published last year, the same year he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

In an interview last November, he told the BBC the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and was possibly brought on by his "bohemian and rackety life".

PA

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