Sam Savage, an unconventional novelist who called the Lowcountry home for 22 years, died Thursday, according to his publisher, Coffee House Press. He was 78.
Savage was born and raised in Camden. His father, Henry Savage, was a lawyer and naturalist who served as a relatively liberal mayor of the town for 10 years, inviting threats and attacks due to his pro-integration stance. His mother was a homemaker with a passion and talent for poetry.
“There were two gods in my family,” Savage told Poets & Writers magazine in 2011. “Darwin on my father’s side and Keats on my mother’s side.”
His youthful years were spent in Cambridge, Mass., and New York City, where he protested nuclear weapons testing and embraced a progressive brand of politics, then spent years earning degrees, writing and traveling.
In the 1970s, Savage was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic lung disease. From 1980 to 2002, he lived in Charleston and then McClellanville, working as a carpenter and commercial fisherman, and writing. He spent his last years in Madison, Wis.
His writing got him nowhere until, hunkered down in McClellanville one winter, he published in 2006 his novel "Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife," whose protagonist is a rat. It sold more than 1 million copies worldwide.
Savage went on to write "The Cry of the Sloth," "The Criminal Life of Effie O," "Glass" and "The Way of the Dog," cementing his reputation as an alternative, original literary voice. His last book was a tiny volume called "It Will End With Us," published in 2014.